The Generic-parts Technique and Obscure Features

McCaffrey (2012) investigates the theory that “during innovative problem solving, individuals discover at least one infrequently noticed or new feature of the problem that can be used to reach a solution” (p. 1). This study hypothesizes that the generic-parts technique (GPT) can help people to detect the types of obscure features that can be used to overcome functional fixedness, which is defined as the tendency to fixate on the typical use of an object or one of its parts. Furthermore, this study tests whether learning the GPT helps participants identify the key obscure feature required for a solution. For methodology, 28 undergraduate students were recruited to the study. Eight toy insight problems were used. All participants completed one training session, and then they were randomly assigned to either a GPT group or a control group. For the first testing phase, participants were given one insight problem at a time on a sheet of paper. For the second testing phase, participants listed features of 10 randomly ordered objects. Participants who were assigned to a GPT group were encouraged to use GPT to uncover overlooked features. The results of the study showed no significant difference in the number of problems that the two groups reported as familiar, and the GPT group solved significantly more problems than the control group did. Furthermore, the GPT group listed more target features than the control group. The fact that learning the GPT leads participants to identify more target features to solve the problem shows an element of association between learning GPT and target feature identification. Furthermore, the study argues that GPT helped participants to overcome functional fixedness by helping list more target features and solve more insight problems that evoked fixedness. I could not find a clear dissociation or double dissociation. I would say that mental representation is expressed since participants responded to the training phase by writing the first word that came to mind and showing it to the experimenter.

Work Cited

Mccaffrey, T. (2012). Innovation Relies on the Obscure. Psychological Science,23(3), 215-218. doi:10.1177/0956797611429580

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