As a child I went to a public grade school. M.S Hetherington Elementary, which in his 57 year history has not graduated a single Prime Minister, Peace Prize winner or Nobel Lauriat. In fact, a large percentage of my former Hetherington Alumni are in some form of the Ontario Correctional Institution.
Now for those of us who lived to tell about our experience at MS Hetherington (and do so using proper grammar and punctuation), should all recognize this picture.
This picture depicting a box of thumbtacks, a candle, a box of matches and a desk was accompanied by a task. “Configure a way to attach the candle to the wall without having the wax drop onto the table”. After a few minutes of deliberation those of us with brainstems came up with a model that looked something like this
A tack or two to attach the box to the wall, candle in the box, and Voila! Wax drips into the box, the desk is spared.
This is a cognitive test born out of Gestalt psychology, which looks to understand how we attain a meaningful perception of the world around us. In particular this candle box test is used to see if children can think “outside the box”, and use an object in a way different then its intended purpose. It highlights the willingness or unwillingness to overcome a cognitive bias of particular objects.
Now it is at this time you might be asking yourself, “Why the hell is he telling me this, this guy writes about deadlifts and bicep curls, why the sudden interest in 20th century German psychology? “
That’s a fair question, Let me explain.
Functional Fixedness, the ability to problem solve beyond the strictures of objects preconceived designations is a sign of normal cognitive functioning of kids. It is NOT a sign of genius.
Now this is an idea that transcends into the modern day “double tap” social media, meat head culture. People are gaining an Islam-like following by utilizing gym equipment in different ways, and to their uninitiated followers, this creativity is a show of true genius.
Whereas the fact of the matter is that these gym-innovator- geniuses are utilizing the mental processes of a well adapted 9 year old.
So please, please, please. Next time you see a shirtless jackass using two landmines to do pec-flys, or an Insta-famous “fitness chick” doing glute kick backs with a bicep curl machine, don’t bow your head to their infinite wisdom, rather see them for what they are: Refurbished wheel salesmen trying to sell you something that already exists, while bolstering the same problem solving capability as your little sister.