Functional fixedness and other psychological quirks

Our minds do some things without any conscious involvement. Let’s call these subconscious things ‘mental quirks’. And let’s presume they can be found in pretty much all human beings. Then these mental quirks are worthwhile knowing to:

  • overcome them e.g. in creative challenges (lateral thinking)
  • use them in e.g. NetFlix 10% algorithm improvement (behavioral economics)


Functional fixedness

This is known as the bias of “functional fixedness”, since we’re typically terrible at coming up with new functions for old things. That’s why we’re so surprised to learn that an oven can be turned into a small closet or that an apple can be used as a bong.

Anchoring effect

Anchoring suggests that rating systems need to take account of inertia — a user who has recently given a lot of above-average ratings is likely to continue to do so. If a customer watches three movies in a row that merit four stars — say, the Star Wars trilogy — and then sees one that’s a bit better — say, Blade Runner — they’ll likely give the last movie five stars. But if they started the week with one-star stinkers like the Star Wars prequels, Blade Runner might get only a 4 or even a 3.

Opportunity costs

More options lead to more regret. Opportunity costs refers to the dissatisfaction caused by having to choose from a huge number of alternatives i.e. the experience of missed opportunities.


Simply put, we get used to things, and then we start to take them for granted. Because of adaptation, enthusiasm about positive experiences doesn’t sustain itself.

Just came across a set of cards that contain plenty of psychological quirks at


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