Many people think simply when they solve the problems. They usually have one solution to a problem because they don't think of other alternative ways to solve it. Functional fixedness happens when we experience difficulty in thinking about something only in term of its functionality rather than we can use it for another purpose. Functional fixedness is cognitive bias that limits a person uses an object in the way that is traditionally used. We became "fixated" in conventional use of object.
Functional fixedness is introduced by Karl Duncker. To prove this concept, he designed an experiment called "Duncker's Candle Problem" which he had a board, candle, bunches of matches, a box of tacks and he told experimentees to mount candle on the wall. Do you know a way to solve this problem? At first, when I look at a problem, I didn't know how to solve a problem because I thought that box only uses to hold the tacks. I actually fixated on the box's functionality and didn't think other alternative ways to use the box. After two or three minutes, I realized that the box can be used to hold handle and the box can mount to the wall using tacks. After that, we can burn candle to allow wax dripped down candle so that the candle can stuck inside the box. Therefore, we can burn candle safely.
The Duncker's Candle Problem is important because it shows that we have limited ability to solve a problem. For example, do you need scissors, hammer, paper but you don't have anything of these around you? What should you do? Do you find any alternative ways to arrange things to allow it to cut somethings, pound a nail, or write something on? I sometimes run into a problem when I need a paperweight but I only have ruler with me. I can't see ruler as a paperweight because ruler always uses to measure a length of an object. Functional fixedness is also a problem when NASA try to invent new pen that allows astronauts to write upside down in space but Russians use pencils for it and it saves them a ton of dollar. Another question that I may have for this concept is "Can functional fixedness happen to non-technological people (people haven't experienced of using any kind of tools)? What role does functional fixedness play in their society?
Funny examples of functional fixedness that I have found on youtube