Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
Clinical Trial
. 2000 Dec;7(4):707-12.
doi: 10.3758/bf03213010.

Immunity to Functional Fixedness in Young Children

Clinical Trial

Immunity to Functional Fixedness in Young Children

T P German et al. Psychon Bull Rev. .


In the candle problem (Duncker, 1945), subjects must attach a candle to a vertical surface, using only a box of tacks and a book of matches. Subjects exhibit functional fixedness by failing, or being slow, to make use of one object (the tack box) as a support, rather than as a container, in their solutions. This failure to produce alternate functions is measured against improved performance when the tack box is presented empty rather than full of tacks (i.e., not preutilized as a container). Using an analogous task, we show that functional fixedness can be demonstrated in older children (6- and 7-year-olds); they are significantly slower to use a box as a support when its containment function has been demonstrated than when it has not. However, younger children (5-year-olds) are immune to this effect, showing no advantage when the standard function is not demonstrated. Moreover, their performance under conditions of preutilization is better than that of both older groups. These results are interpreted in terms of children's developing intuitions about function and the effects of past experience on problem solving.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 13 articles

See all "Cited by" articles


    1. J Exp Psychol. 1952 Oct;44(4):288-91 - PubMed
    1. Psychol Rev. 1991 Apr;98(2):164-81 - PubMed
    1. Cognition. 1999 Apr 1;70(3):241-72 - PubMed
    1. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 1992;57(4):1-182 - PubMed
    1. Cognition. 1983 Jan;13(1):103-28 - PubMed

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources