Prior knowledge is not always beneficial. A cognitive bias called the einstellung effect describes a phenomenon that occurs when existing knowledge hinders one’s ability to find better solutions. Einstellung is German for mindset or attitude. When faced with a problem, it is the mindset or default response of the brain to refer to past solutions. Instead of treating the current issue as a completely new problem, we apply previous methods that have worked.
Instead of the individual mastering the habit, the habit masters the individual.
— and , The Journal of General Psychology
The experiment that demonstrated the effect asked participants to measure out a certain amount of water using a combination of jars of different sizes. The researchers found that once the brains had been primed with a solution that worked, it became harder for them to see a simpler solution.