Stumped? Here’s What To Do
What Helps People Solve 67% More Problems?
Functional Fixedness: What It Is & Why It Matters
Tony McCaffrey, a University of Massachusetts psychology PhD has developed a process to help people overcome what’s called ‘functional fixedness.’ Functional fixedness is a tendency to focus on the traditional uses of an object. The problem is, in order to solve problems, we sometimes need to think about using things in a non-traditional manner. Functional fixedness creates a mental block that make keep us from seeing a solution.
For example, you might be trying to find materials with which to start a campfire and the moss and possible kindling around you is damp. You might not think to try the bag of chips you have because chips are usually used for eating and not for burning (some brands of chip burn very well).
A Technique To Overcome Functional Fixedness
GPT — “generic parts technique,” is a technique to overcome functional fixedness. GPT works by asking two questions about each object involved in a problem.
- Can it be broken down further?
- Does my description of the part imply a use?
Once you’ve realized what use is implied, you become more aware of the limitations you’ve put on the uses for that part. Then you can consider other uses (we call this “reframing, in NLP).
McCaffrey’s tested GPT’s effectiveness and found that people trained in GPT solved eight specific problems 67 percent more often than those who weren’t.
But The Problem Is Bigger Than That (And The Solution Is Better)
But functional fixedness and its ilk go far beyond problems seeing the potential functions of objects. People have problems getting to lots of personal resources; emotional states, thinking styles and physical states — not just how to think about objects. And it’s typically related to context.
In fact, most of the time, when people seek help from hypnotherapists/NLPers, they are suffering from the lack of ability to transfer resources from one context to another.
Context Is Powerful
Functional fixedness is only one example of the human ability/drawback to contextualize. When you think about knitting (as an example), you have beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviors that you bring to the surface. If you’re good at knitting and like it, they will likely be positive associations, beliefs and emotions. It’s what I call a belief/feeling/ability constellation. If you feel inadequate as a knitter, you’d have a different set of beliefs, feeling and abilities.
The problem is that we may need a feeling or belief that’s not yet attached to a particular context.
As an example, a person might have a fear of public speaking. They might need confidence and a solid belief that they could do well in front of a group. They might have a feeling of confidence and a strong belief about their ability to ice skate. If they could transfer those feelings to speaking, it would lead to the ability to speak more fluently and confidently.
That’s Why We’re Here
NLP & hypnosis are both great ways to transfer resources from one context to another. Anchoring is one example of how to take a resource emotion and attach it to a different context.
I often think of the mind as having a kind of filter for information. It calls up information to consciousness based on context. But that means you might not remember the name of your bicycle repairman if you saw him at an art gallery. But the “deeper” you get into the mind, the easier it is to transfer things from one context to another. Hypnosis is really great for dissolving the walls between contexts and letting information and resources flow across.