Rethinking Labels Boosts Creativity

Scientific American Mind:

To become more inventive, new research suggests, we should start thinking about common items in terms of their component parts, decoupling their names from their uses.

When we think of an object—a candle, say—we tend to think of its name, appearance and purpose all at once. We have expectations about how the candle works and what we can do with it. Psychologists call this rigid thinking “functional fixedness.”

Tony McCaffrey, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, developed a two-step “generic parts technique,” which trains people to overcome functional fixedness. First, break down the items at hand into their basic parts, then name each part in a way that does not imply meaning.

Read the whole story: Scientific American Mind

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