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It is the tendency to see objects as only working in a particular way. You might view a thumbtack as something that can only be used to hold paper to a corkboard.
Functional fixedness can prevent people from seeing other uses for an object. It can also diminish our ability to think of creative solutions to problems.
If you have two candles, numerous thumbtacks, and a box of matches, try to figure out how to mount the candles to the wall.
Answer: Using the matches, melt the bottom part of each candle, then use the hot wax to stick the candle to the matchbox. Then use the thumbtacks to attach the box to the wall.
Due to functional fixedness, many people might try to use the thumbtacks directly to fix the candles to the wall. They may consider it as the only way to use the thumbtacks.
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