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Maslow's Hammer

Also Known As...
Law of the InstrumentGolden Hammer
Functional Fixedness
Maslow's Hammer


The over-reliance on a particular tool simply because that tool is either more immediately available or because it's more familiar.


"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail," is a an aphorism from Abraham Maslow's The Psychology of Science, published in 1966.

Everyday Use

Maslow's Hammer is a solution heuristic — we use what we know to get where we want, even if it's not the best way to get there. As an oversimplification, surgeons think surgery is the best option, psychiatrists believe that medication would be the wisest path, and psychologists that counseling is preferred. Our experiences and familiarity guide us, but it's good to recognize when we have blinders on too.