How to guard against fixation? Demonstrating individual vulnerability is more effective than warning about general risk
Abstract: Creative behaviour can be inhibited by fixation and so reducing fixation is a focus of much creativity research. One of the most common methods of tackling fixation is to warn people of fixation risks and instruct them to avoid constrained problem framing and solution search. However, such treatments are often ineffective. One possible explanation for this is that people typically believe that they (as individuals) are less vulnerable to a specified risk than other people are (in general). If we really want to motivate people to guard against a risk we need to demonstrate that they, as individuals, are vulnerable to those risks. To study the effect of demonstrating individual vulnerability to fixation, we conducted an online experimental study using number and word tasks that both included a fixation ‘trap’. The first task was used to provide a 'demonstrated vulnerability' treatment (revealing participants’ own fixated behaviour) to the experimental group. This group outperformed those who received a comparable ‘asserted vulnerability’ treatment (a warning about general fixation effects) and also those in a control group. Researchers and practitioners developing creativity training and tools aimed at reducing fixation effects should consider the benefits of demonstrating individual vulnerability to fixation rather than, or in combination with, issuing warnings that people in general are vulnerable to fixation.