Why we act the way we do is fascinating to me. I find behavioral science interesting in general, and behavioral economics in particular. Daniel Kahneman’s, Thinking, Fast and Slow, for example, is a best-selling book by a psychologist/behavioral economist who won a Nobel Prize in economics. It is a compelling read.
I just finished The Quick Fix, Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills, by Jesse Singal. I plan on giving it another read. In it, he takes aim at the science, or lack of it, underlying such things as the self-esteem movement (that I admittedly bought into in the 80’s and 90’s, hook, line, and sinker). “People with high self-esteem, perhaps unsurprisingly, have a tendency to rate themselves highly in various domains of life, often in a reality-defying manner…”
Other “quick fixes” are targeted by Singal as well: “power posing”; “grit”; IAT (implicit association test – “introduced in 1998, has been a blockbuster success”); and others. There is a difference between good and bad research, says Singal, and the quick fixes targeted by Singal have their share of the latter.
The troubling thing, though, is the extent to which these quick fixes have permeated policy in government, education, and private industry.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. Fad psychology provides the quick fixes politicians, government officials, and CEOs seem to yearn for. And it can be very, very lucrative.