When I was a kid, my parents kept telling me that you need to be creative, and don’t restrict your imagination. At that moment, I had no idea what they were talking about. Nowadays, I start to realize what they are taking about is one of the fixations, the functional fixedness.
In the textbook chapter 12, functional fixedness is referring to “ the restriction of the use of an object to its familiar functions”(Goldstein, 2011). For instance, in the candle problem, people would normal treat the matchbox as a container rather than a support. People’s mind are restricted by ordinary function of the subject. And that is a great example of functional fixedness. This concept reminds me the mind-set that we used to talk about. However, sometimes, a way of solving a problem is to break that functional fixedness. And I met a great example few days ago.
Last weekend, we got back from hiking. On the highway, we saw a really funny scene that made everyone of us laugh so loudly. We saw a car in front of us; interestingly, the left side mirror was broken. When we drove pass the car, the left side mirror was replaced by a pair of sunglass and well taped! When my friend told us the fact that sunglasses were being used as a temporary replacement of side mirror, every one of us was joking about that driver. We said that driver must have the greatest reflection sunglass in the world. We all amused by that scene and ignored the usefulness of that sunglass.
Today, I realize that is actually a great example of functional fixedness. When we use the sunglass, we normally wear it and prevent the intensive sunlight. That is the main function of the sunglasses. Does anyone realize it can also used as an emergency side mirror when the mirror is broken? I think none of us would realize that, to be honest. And sometimes, breaking the functional fixedness is actually the best way to solve the problem. I would say that is actually a brilliant idea with emergency condition. Of course, I am not saying it is the best way to solve the problem. The safety concern also need to be considering at the same time.
In our life, there are different types of problems waiting us to solve. When you don’t have a practicable solution, maybe try another way. Break the fixation might be another practicable way. Through breaking the functional fixedness, it might help you achieve the solution. There is nothing means to be something. Remember: don’t let your old, stereotypical mind restrict yourself. Sometimes, another way of insight might open another door for you.
Goldstein, E.B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, Third Ed. Belmont, CA. Wasdworth, Cengage Learning.