Creativity and Imagination by Removing This One Cognitive Bias


Enhance Your Creativity and Imagination by Removing This One Cognitive Bias

A cognitive bias is a ‘flaw’ in your thinking. This is any type of inaccuracy that our brains make on a large scale, due to the way they’ve evolved and the experiences that we’ve all gone through. Generally, this comes down to our brain’s preference for efficiency and the resulting attempts to take shortcuts.

Different cognitive biases affect different aspects of our cognition. When it comes to our creativity and imagination though, the ‘functional fixedness bias’ is the one you need to address.

What is Functional Fixedness?

Functional fixedness describes the brain’s general tendency to think of any given item or object only in a single context. For example, if you have a pair of scissors, it means you would only ever think of them as a cutting implement.

The most famous example of this bias in action is the ‘candle box experiment’. Here, participants are given a candle and a box of tacks. From there, they are then asked to attach the candle to the wall, in such a way that it can burn while upright. Invariably, the subjects then try to use the tacks to stick the candle to the wall and they fail.

After some time however, they eventually come to the realization that they can also use the box that the tacks came in. Now, they tack the box to the wall and stand the candle in it – thereby solving the problem. The issue was caused by their inability to view the box as anything other than a container for the tacks.

How to Overcome This Bias

So if you want to overcome functional fixedness in your own life, what should you do?

The most common advice given is to break any resources you have down into their constituent parts. Thus, if you have a candle, you can view it not only as a candle, but as a candle, wax, and wick. Instead of a box of tacks, you have card and metal. This way, you can get around the problem of functional fixedness and view the raw resources instead.

This method can be used to help you find creative solutions to problems and even to be more imaginative and creative in your work.

And remember: there’s no such thing as a lack of resources, only a lack of resourcefulness!

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