Nasi Goreng and Functional Fixedness

My husband prepared Nasi Goreng (fried rice) for breakfast on the 3rd day of Eid. It was a delicious, palatable dish. My kids and I enjoyed it very much but I had to refrain myself from rolling my eyes at the sight of how he prepared the dish.

Fried rice is technically best prepared in a pan or a wok. It’s a pleasant sight to see the rice being fried along with the protein and vegetables on top of the raging flame. Hence, it was to my dismay to see my husband prepared it in a sauce pan. He is not entirely wrong but it does come across as an eyesore because the frying pan was in the cabinet just above him. But he chose the pot because it was already on the stove. I had just cleaned it last night and left it to air dry.

That morning I had to overcome Functional Fixedness.

Functional Fixedness in Psychology is a form of cognitive bias upon solving a problem where one is limited to a traditional way of addressing the matter. This prevents a person to be holistic and look for novelty or creative ways in settling an issue. It can be daunting when you are trying to work through a problem as a team and some members refuse to delve into something new because they cannot see past ‘biasanyer kita buat mcm ni’. In a way, they are also trapped in a Confirmation Bias because they would only listen to those who supports their initial idea.

Once, my Emergency Physician got so pissed off with people telling her ‘the normal way of doing things’ that she doesn’t want to hear us say, ‘selalunya’ or ‘sebelum ni’. We had to support our clinical decisions with evidence and facts. Not because someone did it before and it worked. Functional Fixedness is not a negative connotation altogether. Re-using the same solution to solve a similar problem is commendable because it saves time and we know it works. It’s in cases where it doesn’t work, that we have to think outside the box.

In my simple case, my concept of making nasi goreng is limited to just using the wok to cook it whereas I could use a pot if I wanted to. At the end of the day, I will still have the same nasi goreng to eat. In a way it taught me that there is no one way to fry rice, boil soup or cook maggi mee. We must learn to be resourceful and adaptive to our surroundings to survive.

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