Design fixation has been extensively studied in the context of engineering design, leading to several interventions to reduce its negative effects. The concept of mental fixation has roots in diverse psychological contexts from Freudian psychoanalysis to Gestaltism and eating disorders. Although the underlying concepts are similar, the phenomenon has different names, including mental set, rumination, functional fixedness, obsession, etc. Mental fixation in its various forms is always a barrier to problem solving, whether the problem is a psychological disorder or an engineering-design task.

The present paper explores the applicability to design fixation of cognitive therapy, a form of psychotherapy that relies on questioning to identify and modify inaccurate perceptions. Originally developed to treat depression, it is now used to treat a variety of psychiatric disorders. Specific interventions used in cognitive therapy are described in detail towards developing new means of overcoming design fixation. These interventions include cognitive restructuring and exposure response prevention. Also explored are links to other research results from psychology and cognitive science, including focused distraction, and the effects of music and physical exercise. In addition to developing new interventions, existing design-fixation interventions can also be supplemented using insights from these research results.

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