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The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can't Cure Our Social Ills

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  703 ratings  ·  107 reviews
An investigative journalist exposes the many holes in today's bestselling behavioral science, and argues that the trendy, TED-Talk-friendly psychological interventions that are so in vogue at the moment will never be enough to truly address social injustice and inequality.

With their viral TED talks, bestselling books, and counter-intuitive remedies for complicated problems
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 6th 2021 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2021)
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Book Clubbed
Apr 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Listen to the full review here.

Growing up, my mom drank a lot of coffee. If we were on the road, we were stopping for lunch at Starbucks. If she hadn’t had her morning espresso and we passed a coffee shop, I was going to be late for school. She always defended her casual addiction with blurry statistics from studies she could kinda-sorta remember. “Coffee makes you live longer,” she would claim. Or: “Coffee is good for your heart.” “Coffee makes you a better listener.”

Wow, young me thought, why
David Wineberg
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Almost as s a public service, Jesse Singal has investigated numerous famous frauds of social/behavioral psychology. These are the fashionable, authoritative life hacks that can be described in cute memes or no more than a simple declarative sentence. The kinds of hacks that have made millions for psychologists, and continue to, long after they have been proven wrong if not totally bogus, and even after their creators have admitted as much. It is a delicious overview of what is wrong with psychol ...more
Ryan Boissonneault
Apr 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The self-improvement industry—with a projected 2022 market value of $13.2 billion—clearly has massive appeal and a wide readership. Self-help is consistently represented in the top five nonfiction genres sold on Amazon each year, and the latest self-help bestseller often maintains its position at the top of the charts for months at a time.

The genre’s popularity is not difficult to understand; when people feel that most aspects of their lives are beyond their control, they respond positively and
Rick Wilson
May 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I really love reading. And oftentimes that’s because I will occasionally stumble across a book like this. A book that is that is a full baked version of a half baked idea that I have. This book was wonderful.

If you go through my reviews you’ll see I’m not a fan of a lot of pop psychology despite returning to it regularly like a moth attracted to a porch light. (Note: i’ll probably go back and hyperlink some of these, be patient with me) I love learning about the human condition whether that’s t
Collin Mickle
Mar 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
(I received a free copy of this very good book as part of a Goodreads giveaway. That is not what made me think it is very good, I promise.)

This is a thorough and thoughtful pop-science book packed full of the ingredient most pop-science books are missing: Skepticism. Singal gives a dispassionate presentation of behavioral psychology's long history of overpromising and overpromoting. The end result is damning.

The chapters stand alone; each one outlines a different overblown behavioral-psych findi
Sebastian Gebski
Jan 23, 2022 rated it it was amazing
The book aimed to deal with all the silver-bullets of behavioral and social psychology? Count. Me. In!
Singal covers topics like: unconscious bias, grit, power pose, fighting PTSD, or the nudge. If that is not enough to make you interested, I don't know what would do so :)

Just to be clear: Singal doesn't smash all of them into pieces by proving them wrong and fad. In some cases he simply says: I don't know, in some cases it may be right, in some it may be wrong, BUT there's no objective data that
Aaron Cohen
Apr 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Ludwig Franke Föyen
May 02, 2021 rated it it was ok
Perhaps it is a sign of my erudition (probably not) or that I've studied psychology for 5 years that this book didn't contain much new of anything. If you're at all familiar to the replication crisis, pseudoscientific psychological claims and bad science this book will be mostly familiar to you. Singal sometimes argues for sociological answers to the questions behavioral researchers have tried to answer and that does make sense - but he never acknowledges the fact that saying something conclusiv ...more
Jun 01, 2021 rated it it was ok
Listened to Audible. I thought the premise of this book sounded interesting and had previously heard the author speak on a podcast. I think unfortunately there was not enough interesting content to fill an entire book. His premise would be better stated in a 45-60 minute podcast or long-form article. The takeaway was rather evident at the very beginning, to not trust all hyped social psychology trends. By diving into the flawed research methodology behind 'power posing' and 'grit', I didn't beco ...more
Ivana B.
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I would definitely trust this charlatan to write a grocery list. In fact, I’ll bet his grocery list is as useful for buying groceries as this book is for detecting psychological fads. He is a cogent, thoughtful writer with an unusual ability to say it like he sees it. I’m sure the book will be an important corrective and a good read.
Stephen Theaker
Jan 21, 2021 marked it as got
Rating books you haven't read makes you a liar. Shocking to see a published author doing it here with this book. ...more
Emil O. W. Kirkegaard
This is alright, but there are better books on these topics out there. Stuart Richie's book is among the best. Most of popular psychology is false or vastly overstated. Quick fixes don't work. This is all obvious stuff to people who have been paying attention. So the typical SSC reader won't learn anything, but sure, the average reader will. ...more
Catherine Holloway
May 12, 2021 rated it liked it
This book was great at explaining why a lot of pop psychology has turned out to be wrong, and points out many different examples.

However, at the end of every chapter it veers into political commentary that includes what I would consider "Fad Economics": matter-of-fact statements that sound true-ish without any actual evidence. I don't know a lot about psychology but I am read enough in economics research to know that there are some things Singal states that are currently a matter of debate in ec
Apr 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been waiting for a book like this for years. Singal’s examination of numerous widely respected studies is fair and objective, providing not only valid critique to individual scientific theories but also sheds light on the inherent flaws of the recent trend of regarding psychology as a predictable science in order to solve complex and nuanced social issues.

It was both refreshing and eye opening! I would recommend it to everyone as it felt like a gentle but firm wake up call.
Aug 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Good book. Excited for the TED talk.
Henry Manampiring
Jun 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Very good to inoculate you against "TED celebrities" and popular psychology fads. ...more
Apr 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
A damning indictment of both the behavioral psychology field and the unrigorous way that scientific ideas are too often covered by the popular press. Singal goes case-by-case through a number of pop psychology fads, including power posing, "grit" and the implicit association test and details why and how they caught on despite a lack of thorough evidence backing them up. Ultimately, what all these concepts have in common is they offer tantalizing solutions for fixing serious social problems -- ra ...more
Jesse Singal's The Quick Fix is booked as a sober dismantling of the "PrimeWorld" of behavioral science. "PrimeWorld" is "a worldview fixated on the idea that people's behavior is largely driven - and can be affected - by subtle forces," such as "unconscious influences" and other individual-based, low-cost interventions. Toward this end, Singal's project succeeds but does so in a wandering and sometimes ambivalent fashion. Thus, The Quick Fix makes for an interesting but periodically frustrating ...more
Chris Boutté
Apr 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is by far my new favorite book in the niche of books that explain how flawed studies can get a lot of attention. I've never read or listened to any of Singal's work, but I've been anticipating this book for months now based on some of the things I've seen from him on Twitter. Once I started this book, I couldn't put it down. No review I do of this book would do it justice, but I do think I've pinned down why I believe this book stands out above the rest. 

Most books in this niche debunk popu
Nina (Momo)
Nov 05, 2021 rated it liked it
This book was alright! I hate having to rate things with stars (I say, despite nobody forcing me and the fact that I frequently forget to do so entirely), because I'm always stuck between rating based on my enjoyment of a book and my overall impression of the quality of the book. Sometimes, the former will be so overwhelming that I'll rate the book highly even if I can see problems with it (usually with fiction), but surprising often, I'll find books that are perfectly alright and honestly well ...more
Feb 07, 2022 rated it it was amazing
In The Quick Fix, Jesse Singal summarizes psychology’s replication crisis through several high profile fads. He covers self-esteem, super predators, power posing, positive psychology, grit, implicit bias, social priming, and nudging. The way these theories consistently find undeserved scholarly, popular, and political support is alarming.

The Quick Fix is not an all out takedown and dismissal of these theories. Nudging can work in some contexts, for example, but it's not a panacea. Instead, the p
May 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
In depth dive into some of the more "self help" psychology that has been popularized by TED talks and other similar platforms. This book really talks about the replication crisis and how a combination of over-claiming research press releases, cuts to important science reporting jobs, and politicians looking for an easy out will push "novel" psychology ideas. Often these concepts have little actual evidence behind them but are pushed as revolutionary ways to solve large social problems. The ideas ...more
Maryam Nada
Apr 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
YES! Finally someone taking a deeper look into the many many many common, baseless, positive psychology/ pop social good-for-nothing trends that many fall for.
There is no easy fix, no matter how many wishes u send out for the universe to hear and do.
Jul 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Fad psychology is interesting but misleads.

1. Self esteem: correlate with only self reported but not objective performance

2. Supervillain from young: no such person exists

3. Power posture: rather useless

4. Positive mindset: just asking soldiers to feel the hug would not prepare them for the actual horrors of war. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps depressed people with the wrong mental framework. Cognitive processing therapy helpful in PTSD. But asking people to have a positive mindset has min
Dylan Partner
Apr 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
(Note: I received an advance copy of this book as a part of the Goodreads giveaway.)

The Quick Fix is about a lot more than psychology- it's about the fallibility of our reasoning and our institutions, and the ways that we can address these issues. Singal deftly explores a number of questionable psychological findings that have had a great amount of popular influence, deconstructs their histories, showcases their impacts, and reveals how much of the research that has driven them is fundamentally
Ben Madsen
Apr 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have been wanting to write a “everything cool you heard in psych 101 was wrong” set of articles for a while. So many social psychology lessons I remember from my Psych 101 class were misrepresented, including the Implicit Associations Test, the Milgram Study, the Stanford Jail study, Stereotype Threat, Diffuse Responsibility (The Bystander Effect) and many more. These psychology ideas are used as touchstones to explain some larger issue in society. Even if the larger issue is real, the idea th ...more
Apr 06, 2021 rated it liked it
The Quick Fix by Jesse Singal is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-March.

Singal addresses, challenges, and criticizes new age, fad, patch and fix it psychology, like self-love, trauma, biases, and tenacity to name a few.
David Mihalyi
May 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021
A great book discussing how a series behavioral life hacks rose to great prominence in the past decades. They were proposed by psychology researchers at top universities and offered to solve big societal problems such as racism, sexism and PTSD. At their peak they were turned into popular TED talks, best-selling books and an array of trainings and interventions offered to roll them out. But lately it has become increasingly clear that the benefits of these interventions fall well short of what t ...more
Jun 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Jesse Singal has long been one of my favorite writers and this book doesn't disappoint. Scientific skepticism and social sciences: this is totally my jam. One reason I loved this book is it showed me just how much TED talks have been lying to me, and how much social science I've been taking for granted that it turns out is not well supported by the evidence. Maybe some people dislike learning those sorts of truths, but for me it's refreshing and illuminating and I love the increase in knowledge ...more
May 29, 2021 rated it liked it
This book is a great rebuttal of the fad psychology polluting our LinkedIn feeds. In a nutshell: if it's too good to be true, it probably is. I wouldn't go as far as to say that this is a "complete takedown of everything you learned in PSYC 101." As someone who literally took a class called PSYC 100, I would say the bread & butter foundations of the field: things like Operant Conditioning, Classical conditioning, and good experimental design still remain intact. Much of the best work being done ...more
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Jesse Singal is a Brooklyn-based journalist and a contributing writer at New York Magazine. He was previously editor of the behavioral-science vertical Science of Us, and then a writer-at-large.

He has a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy, and he was a Bosch Fellow in Berlin.

His work has appeared in The New York Times, Sla

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