Research updates

Summary of BSL – MoCA Functional Fixedness Pilot Study in the Lab School

At the end of July 2017, we tested eight children from the lab school on two games each. The purpose was to anecdotally see which game would produce more variability in responding (some children performing better than others).

We used anecdotal observation to adjust the task scripts and decide which tasks to continue forward with. We tested two tasks designed to measure functional fixedness (the ability, or lack of ability, to use an object for something other than it is normally used for). In both tasks, children were asked to build a tower tall enough to reach a toy at the top of a castle we had built.

In the Lego version, a child had to turn a Lego on its side (not linking with other Legos) in order to put other Legos on top and make the tower tall enough. In the Box version, children had to use the box that the blocks were presented in to stack the blocks on top of and make the tower tall enough.

We found that there was a good amount of variability in how long and how many hints it took for children to figure out the solution in the box version. No child thought, on the first try, to use the box to stack the blocks on top of. Most children eventually figured out the solution before the experimenter revealed it to them, but hints were required. With the Lego task, children had a much harder time figuring out the solution and were very fixed in using the Legos to link into each other for stacking. Only a couple were able to find the solution without it being revealed to them.

At the end of September 2017, we tested 10 additional children. Based on observations from July testing, we finalized scripts for the Lego and box tasks and added a third task to see if this would provide more variability in response than for the Lego task. This additional task involved pushing a stuffed toy out of a tube with a “target” item (straw or pencil) after the experimenter had highlighted the functional use of each of these objects (drinking or writing). Results are presented below.

Chart describing count of children needing each level of hints. One child needed no hints for the lego scenario, while three children needed no hints for the box scenario. Four children needed one hint for both the lego and box scenarios. One child needed two hints for the lego scenario, while two children needed two hints for the box scenario. Five children failed the lego scenario, while two children failed the box scenario. Chart describing count of children with each outcome for tube tasks.