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Psychol Sci. 2005 Jan;16(1):1-5.

Functional fixedness in a technologically sparse culture.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9660, USA.


Problem solving can be inefficient when the solution requires subjects to generate an atypical function for an object and the object's typical function has been primed. Subjects become "fixed" on the design function of the object, and problem solving suffers relative to control conditions in which the object's function is not demonstrated. In the current study, such functional fixedness was demonstrated in a sample of adolescents (mean age of 16 years) among the Shuar of Ecuadorian Amazonia, whose technologically sparse culture provides limited access to large numbers of artifacts with highly specialized functions. This result suggests that design function may universally be the core property of artifact concepts in human semantic memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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