Have you ever used a piece of paper to prop up a wobbly table or an old shirt as a rag? These illustrate examples of overcoming functional fixedness. Sometimes we get stuck in familiar patterns of thinking for a problem leading us to only see the intended use of an object as the only possible use, despite it have other potential functions. A person suffering from functional fixedness only sees a shirt as a piece of apparel, when it could be a rag, or a chew toy for the dog.
Functional fixedness occurs in a medical context as well. A person may originally be exposed to an aspirin because of one reason, let’s say to reduce their fever. However, aspirin is commonly used off-label to prevent heart attacks and strokes. However, the patient who was originally exposed to this still associates it within the domain of treating a fever and instead opts for a more expensive medication to treat their heart attack and stroke.