Guest Post- Functional Fixedness and the Easily Offended
Functional Fixedness and the Easily Offended
by Cheryl Todd
I read a petition on Change.org that said “Tell Albertson’s (Grocery Stores) to stop selling magazines that glorify violence.” The petition included a photo showing an ordinary magazine rack filled with publications about the shooting sports. The magazine covers read, “Self Defense / Sport / CCW Guide”, “41 Legal States for Suppressors” and “2015 Gear of the Year”. The words “AR-15” appeared on several. Those aren’t exactly terror-inducing headlines. The cover photos depict firearms ranging from hundred-year-old 1911 style semi-auto handguns to the 60-year-old AR-15 style long guns. Those subjects are the old standards for gun magazines, but that was all. The covers showed photos of firearms. There were no camouflage clad guys holding the guns in menacing positions. There were no scantily clad women in provocative poses. Just photos of guns. To some, these photographs apparently glorify violence even though there were no scenes of violence and no phrasing on the covers which called for acts of violence. In fairness, there was a magazine titled “Combat Tactics”, but to my knowledge the petitioners did not single that one out as being especially egregious.
Some of us experience those headlines and cover photos from a very different perspective. Some of us glance at these magazines covers and see inanimate objects which could be used any number of ways. We see the tools we use to protect our lives and the lives of those we love.
I nominate 2015 to be the year of the easily offended, of which this petition is simply another example. I’ve lost count of the times the delicate-minded and easily-offended have called for the world to conform to their sensibilities. I’ve read too many stories passing as “news” wherein the opinion of the “journalist” is rarely weighed against any alternative hypothesis. All of that came to mind as I read the Change.org petition by the easily outraged. Now I’m left pondering this question: Are We, citizens of the United States, really so simple-minded these days that we can hold only one possibility in our minds at a time?
Have we come to place in history where the common man so lacks discernment and wisdom that we must see inanimate objects as having only one possible use? In the field of Psychology that would be called “Functional Fixedness”…for example, can a screwdriver ONLY be used to turn a screw? Could it also be used to pry open a can of paint? Or could it be used to dig a small hole to plant a seed in the ground, or even as a deadly, knife-like weapon? Intelligent, logical, and mature-minded people can consider all such possibilities.
It is as if the entire nation is stuck in what renowned Developmental Psychologist Jean Piaget would have termed the “Preoperational Stage” of Development. The preoperational stage ranges from about ages 2 to 7. At this age, a child cannot use logic. They can’t transform, combine or separate ideas. They focus on only one aspect of a situation at a time. The media talks to us as if we’re children.
In my estimation, this is what is so difficult about trying to engage the “Liberal” mindset in an intelligent debate. People who see the world like a 2-year old seemingly refuse to be reasoned with, seemingly refuse to be brought to a place of new realization, and seemingly refuse to understand the intricacies of the world at large. And, as is the nature of 2-year olds, they demand that the world change to suit their wants, regardless of what may be the greater good in a larger context. Their world revolves around them and their feelings.
Maybe it isn’t their fault. Perhaps they were overindulged by parents, educational institutions, and the like. This childish perspective on the world certainly annoys those of us who are trying to have adult conversations. I cannot begin to offer any solutions to the never-ending cries of “gimme, gimme, gimme” from those who refuse to take responsibility for their own emotional reactions to the world around them. Perhaps we can explain their distorted perspective. They suffer from a distinct and measurable level of emotional under-development. At least this realization lets us have more patience with (and give less credibility to the emotional screaming of) the adult-age, 2-year-old-minded people in our lives. They need a nap and can’t help it.
Perhaps the Year 2016 can be a time of growth in our country, a time of reclaiming a mature multi-faceted view of the world and the objects we encounter as we move through that world. My hope is that those who seek to reach into the lives and overstep the liberties of others by attempting to ban and restrict everything they dislike will instead spend that energy developing new coping skills. I hope the adult-children grow up so they can deal with the apparently uncomfortable reality posed to them in a shelf full of magazines in some given grocery store. Even if occupying that shelf are magazines on which are photographs of guns.