Functional Fixedness

Functional fixedness HeartyPsychFunctional fixedness also called functional fixity or functional embeddedness is a type of cognitive bias, which causes an inability to solve a problem requiring the use of a specific object, the impairment being the result of recent use of an object for a different function, or by recent perception of the object performing a different function.

The phenomenon was first described in 1935 by the German-born US psychologist Karl Duncker, who experimented with five problems, including what he called the box problem in which three small-lighted candles were to be attached to a wooden door at eye level. The subjects were presented with many objects, including a matchbox containing matches, a similar-sized cardboard box containing small candles, and a third similar box containing thumbtacks. The solution was to empty the three boxes, to fix them to the door with thumbtacks, and to stand a lighted candle in each box. While only 43 per cent of Duncker’s subjects solved the box problem in that form, 100 per cent of a control group solved it when presented with the same objects but with the three boxes empty, thus avoiding functional fixedness arising from perceiving the boxes as containers of other objects.

Across all five problems, Duncker found that the functional fixedness of crucial objects reduced the number of solutions by almost a half. Duncker pointed out that the phenomenon applies not only to physical objects or tools, but also to mental objects or concepts. An English translation from Duncker’s classic article in German was published in the journal Psychological Monographs in 1945. Functional fixedness can hamper a person’s ability to solve problems.

Functional fixedness prevents people from finding novel ways of using the objects that are familiar for solving particular problems, for solving other problems that may arise. Children who are five or younger are not fixed, they come up with new ways to use familiar objects during play. As they grow they become functionally fixed as a result of adults correcting them. By practicing creative thinking, functional fixedness can be avoided.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance written on black backgroundWhen a person holds two or more contradictory or inconsistent beliefs, ideas, or values, he or she experiences a mental discomfort. This mental discomfort or psychological stress is described as COGNITIVE DISSONANCE.

A seemingly simple cognitive consistency theory was first introduced by the US psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957. The concept is related to the effects inconsistent cognitions i.e. knowledge or belief, has on a person. It is believed that, inconsistent or contradictory beliefs or ideas are very hard to maintain and often cause tension, which ultimately motivates a person to bring change in those beliefs or ideas. If both the beliefs or ideas in the cognition pair are in harmony they are considered consonant, if one of the beliefs in the cognition pair is opposite to the other, they are dissonant; and if they are neither in harmony nor converse of the other, then such beliefs are said to be irrelevant to each other.

A state of tension is created due to dissonance relation which, in turn, leads to three types of dissonance-reducing behaviors:

  • Changing one of the two perceptions or cognitions
  • Decreasing the perceived importance of dissonant cognitions
  • Adding further (justifying) cognitions

This may be better understood by the following example. A classic case of dissonance is a smoker who holds two beliefs, i.e., “I smoke cigarette” and “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health.” These two sets of information are mutually contradictory and will lead to a state to dissonance. Therefore, to reduce this dissonance, the person will chose one of the above-mentioned dissonance-reducing behaviors.

The Halo Effect

sun with halloThe Halo effect was first documented by the US psychologist Frederick Lyman Wells in a study of ratings of the literary merit of authors. The study was published in the Archives of Psychology in 1907. It is a form of cognitive bias in which a person, brand, or thing evaluated to possess one desirable or positive trait is consequently evaluated to possess many other desirable or positive traits. In person perception, it is a generalization from the perception of one prominent attribute to an impression of the personality as a whole, leading to inflated correlations between rated characteristics. In other words when a person or object is perceived to be good in one aspect, we generally perceive him/her to be good in other areas as well. The term is occasionally limited to occasions in which it leads to an overvaluation of the personality as a whole. In simple terms, your general perception of an individual as “He/She is good!” influences your perception of that person’s particular traits (“He/She is intelligent also!”). The term ‘halo error’ was introduced in 1920 by the US psychologist Edward Thorndike.

The Big-Fish-Little-Pond Effect (BFLP)

The concept of BIG-FISH-LITTLE-POND was first observed by Australian educational psychologist Herbert W. Marsh and colleague. The effect was published in an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1984. The findings were substantiated in a survey of 4,000 15-year-olds, carried out in 26 countries by Marsh and associate. The findings were published in the Journal of American Psychologist in 2003.

The big-fish-little-pond effect refers to the propensity of equally able schoolchildren to show lower academic self-esteem when attending a school in which the average ability level of other children is high than when it is low. The phenomenon is believed to be the outcome of social comparison processes, and it means that children who attend academically selective schools have a low level of academic self-esteem as compared to when they attend academically non-selective schools.

According to the theory, children who study in higher-achieving schools compare themselves with their peers and consider themselves less capable, while equally performing students in lower-achieving settings have more confidence. The effect is evident across all subjects, be it math or science or history, and at all levels of education. Students from both low-income and high-income background exhibit it. And countries all around the world see it.

Researchers have observed that when you are a “big fish” (high-achieving student) in a “little pond” (lower-achieving school), you have a more positive academic self-concept. Conversely, when equally talented students (little fish) are in high-achieving environments (big pond), they compare themselves with their peers and conclude that they don’t measure up.

Five Easy Ways to Manage Parenting Stress

stressed-mother-with-babyWith parenthood comes great responsibility and so do come parenting stress and anxiety. For first-time parents, the newness of the experience and being novice at child-raising puts them in quite a vulnerable position where the pressure to bring up the child properly, and at the same time, leaving nothing to chance, adds too much to their anxiety.

All parents, at some point in their life, experience parenting stress thanks to the fast-paced world that keeps bombarding them with child-rearing challenges on an almost daily basis. Parenting stress can be detrimental to not only the parents but also their child(ren).

In cases where the child suffers from some chronic disease, the associated parenting stress may also negatively impact the child’s health-related outcomes as the stress on the parents may hamper the management of a child’s illness as well. While some parents show pliancy while facing stressors and perform adequately well, some might get so overwhelmed by the demanding regimens and responsibilities that the whole functioning of the family would get disrupted. Therefore, it is pertinent to not ignore the indications of stress from the very start and take necessary action to contain it in time.

The signs or symptoms of one’s being under parenting stress include, persistent headache, disturbed sleep patterns, body aches, muscle tension, often feeling low on energy, losing interest in the things one used to like before, and being irritable with one’s children and people around.

If the above symptoms apply to you too, you are probably suffering from parenting stress. Hence, it is time to take a break and refocus on your life and priorities. Here are five easy ways that can help you cope with parenting stress effectively:

Make self-care a priority: Only a healthy parent can raise a healthy child. Do yourself a favour and attend to your own needs and requirements too while taking care of your kids’. Get enough sleep. It will naturally boost your ability to cope with stress. Besides, consider other aspects of self-care such as exercise and eating balanced food as well. Parenthood does not necessarily have to mean putting oneself at the back seat. Self-care is, in fact, an opportunity and a great way to lead your children by example. They will learn from you how to cope with life’s exasperation healthily and not ignore one’s well-being.

Make realistic goals: Instead of struggling with perfectionism, understand that it is okay to set achievable standards, even if they are less than perfect. Aiming for consistent perfection leads to stress. Take it easy. It is human not to be able to multitask every time and keep everything in its best shape on all days. Also, it is important to not let this make you feel any less. Know that you are still good enough. Give your children the time they require and while doing that, if you are not able to clean the house to the extent you once used to, it is fine.

Focus your efforts: Parenting demands attending to a large number of issues simultaneously but at the same time, it is humanly impossible to do so, on a daily basis. And therefore, it becomes necessary to pick your battles. As a parent, you need to get your priorities right and identify what matters the most to you that you cannot let go at any cost, and the things that figure comparatively lower on your priority list. For instance, giving your children quality time, providing them good education and instilling moral values might be of utmost important to you while taking them out to restaurants, getting them multiple dresses or enrolling them in hobby classes might be something you feel your children can do without. Determine what matters most to you as a parent, and direct your energy and efforts to get those things done on priority and then see whether you are still left with the energy and resources to get other less important things done.

Talk to friends and ask for help: Talking to friends is the best therapy to deal with almost every kind of stress. Meet up with a friend when you feel overwhelmed by parenting issues. If that is not possible, call that friend and share your concerns with him/her. It is possible that your friend too might be facing the same challenges as you are and this kinship would release the inordinate pressure once you realise that probably you are taking thing too seriously. Similarly, if you feel exhausted while attending to the daily needs and demands of your child, ask for help from your elders especially your parents, in-laws or even neighbours. Advice from people, who are more experienced in raising children than you, can go a long way in solving minor but emotionally taxing problems, such as common childhood illnesses.

Get professional help: If you feel that things are going out of hand and you are not able to tackle the parenting stress despite all your efforts and support system, it is time to reach out for professional help. Unforeseen negative life events and bringing up a child with physical or mental disability may amount to tremendous amount of stress for the parents and they might feel exceedingly overwhelmed. In such cases, it is best for the parents to consult a mental health provider. Visit a psychologist, if you are overly stressed. He or she would help you handle anxiety issues, life changes, or even relationship issues through counselling/talk therapy and by administering diagnostic or psychological tests. A psychologist can also give advice on how to manage your child’s behavioural problems, if any. Addressing children’s behavioural problems or parenting challenges with the help of mental healthcare provider is an effective way to deal with parenting stress. It is important for parents to not let any imagined stigma create self-doubt. It is absolutely normal to seek professional help in order to deal with parenting stress and is in no way, a failure of their parenting capabilities.

Conclusion: It is not possible to exclude stress completely from your parenting routine. However, you can definitely make positive efforts to manage it effectively. Try to establish a network of mutual support comprising friends and relatives to deal with parenting issues. Spend time and have fun with your children. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Set your priorities straight and act accordingly and last but not the least, don’t shy away from taking professional help whenever you feel overwhelmed by parenting stress.medium_Dentist-Oconomowoc--Can-You-Inherit-Oral-Health-Issues