What Duncker Did Differently


What could a box of matches, some thumbtacks and a candlestick from the 1940s teach us about Rehabilitation Counselling? 

*A quick post from me today as I get ready to move houses. I'll be back in full force in April but in the meantime - here's some brain-food!

Do you suffer from Functional Fixedness?

In a fit of box-packing procrastination I recently stumbled across some of my old undergrad psychology notes about an experiment held by Karl Duncker in the 1940s:

Duncker asked his participants to solve a problem using everyday, familiar items. When we become familiar with something, it's easy to see it as serving just one purpose. So we only use it in the way we're used to seeing it be used.

This is functional fixedness: a cognitive bias that prevents us from discovering novel uses for everyday things.

Functional fixedness gets in the way of interesting solutions.

In the context of rehabilitation, procedure makes sense. And especially when you start out, you need to learn all the systems and processes in order to stay afloat.

But what happens down the line?

Image from: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=141091
Image from: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=141091

What opportunities might we be missing out on by doing what we've always done?

So, here's your permission slip to take pause before jumping into the process (or that report, or that assessment, or that case conference), just for a moment.

What solutions might you find if you turn the box of thumbtacks on its head?

Let me know in the comments below: when have you channeled MacGyver to find a new fix for a problem? 


Further reading

(highly recommended procrastination material)

Andy Zynga @ Harvard Business Review: The Cognitive Bias Keeping Us from Innovating

Kerwin Talbot @ Body in Mind:How Clinicians Fall Prey to Cognitive Bias

Dan Pink exploring Fixedness and Motivation in this TED talk.