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

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  294 ratings  ·  63 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
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 6th 2021 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Book
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
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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
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
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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
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Nathan
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
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.
Stetson
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
Daniel
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
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
Janna
Jun 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Listen to my review on the Audiobook Reviews in 5 Minutes podcast: https://podcast.jannastam.com/episode...

As a communications professional, I see the language of positive psychology and terms like grit as inextricable from current trends in employee communications. Many senior leaders use these ideas and associated language to sound authoritative and lend scientific credibility to the workplace culture. I have personally attended employee meetings within the last 10 years where power posing, a
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Lynn
Jun 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Wasn’t sure what I was getting with this book but it turned out to be very good. Often when I pick up a psychology book, it is a thin, not very intellectual and often “pop” psychology that stinks of BS. Even when this was against pop psychology, you never know. But this author is the real deal, he writes for The Atlantic which seems increasingly like pop psychology and science in the last year so I worried there too. Author goes over all the way people embrace pop psychology and magnify it for f ...more
Ravi Raman
Eye opening

I’ve devoured my share of psychological self-help nonfiction. From power poses, to priming, to life hacks; pop psychology seems to be more popular than ever. This book exposes the truth about these findings. All too often constructed on shaky data, and forced into the limelight with the appeal of TED presentations, much modern self-help literature offer simple solutions to very complex problems. There’s something in human nature that seems to desire such remedies. However, are they t
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DonkeyPopsicle
May 12, 2021 rated it liked it
As well-intentioned (and perhaps correct) as this book is, it's trying to do too many things and doesn't have the space for any of them. First (but maybe not foremost), this book reviews some of the more popular fads to come out of academic personality and social psychology in the last twenty years and tells the tale of their downfall. Well--it tells the tale of their downfall among a particular group of (rightly) skeptical scientists and science writers that think replication is important in ex ...more
Kristine
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.
Mark
May 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The Quick Fix is remarkable in that it takes a serious, complicated issue — the proclivity of weakly-evidenced, sexy-sounding social science claims to grab attention and funding — and makes it understandable and fun. If your eyes glaze over when you hear talk about p-values, p-hacking, the replication crisis, or bayesian probabilities, have no fear: Singal capably explains the relevant technical details in ways I immediately grasped, and that feel like they'll stick with me. Topics that by all r ...more
Allyson
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
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
...more
Stephen Theaker
Jan 21, 2021 is currently reading it
Rating books you haven't read makes you a liar. Shocking to see a published author doing it here with this book. ...more
Brett T
Over the last 20 or 30 years, a number of interesting ideas have reared their heads and suggested that they may offer simple keys to dealing with a number of social ills. Though they may seem counterintuitive on first glance, they back up their bold claims with solid psychological research that proves the claims are true. The originators of the ideas become gurus, building impressive consulting empires that help get the ideas into workplaces, schools, public policy discussions and government or ...more
Patrick Hurley
Jun 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a really interesting read - the overall premise is that the author is recounting a number of social psychology "half-baked" ideas that catch on and become widely disseminated, with various negative consequences, and even heavily invested in despite flimsy or incomplete evidence supporting their effect. The overall story of what's going on is that "when society accepts a false story, it's often because that story tells society something it wants to hear, or something that seems to explain ...more
Matthew Mechtly
Jun 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Singal does a tremendous job of summarizing much of the more complex academic literature for lay-people like me who don't have the time to go through the dozens of papers related t0 power-posing (and several other popular psychology trends). Following his dissection of the large academic corpus in many domains, he then points out that these popular psychology fads typically have the same structure: simple, minimally taxing "hacks" that promise significant benefits for minimal investment. Singal ...more
Erik Larsson
Jun 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
A nuanced criticism of what Singal calls "primeworld"-defined by him as a wordlview that views human behavior as "shaped rather easily by primes and other subtle influences — an irrational bias here, a too-pessimistic mind-set there — and that these influences can often be easily dispelled with low-cost psychological tweaks that target individuals to help solve societal problems". The seduction of this worldview lies in its easy, often monocausal diagnoses for solutions to social problems that a ...more
Tom
May 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting read for someone on the periphery of academia. The author, journalist Jesse Singal, takes a critical eye looking at various fads in social psychology. Through detailed data analysis and many conversations with experts, Singal explores topics from Grit to positive psychology to implicit association tests. I remember reading Grit for a book club a few years ago and The Quick Fix does a great job of highlighting the appeal of many of these issues while also showing the ...more
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
...more
Andrew
Jun 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
...I realized that I had simply assumed the test did what its most enthusiastic proponents said it did, despite the rather audacious nature of their claim: that a ten-minute computer task with no connection to the real world could predict subtle forms of real-world discrimination.
-p5, on the IAT


The above is Jesse Singal reflecting on the know well-known IAT (implicit association test). What catapulted the test into every major corporate boardroom and university classroom was enthusiasm about or
...more
Jana
Mar 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
***I received a copy of this book free of charge as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

This is a very interesting book that effectively outlines the problems in psychology, where existing incentives result in dubious research outcomes. Over the years, I've read some of the books referenced, including "Grit," and "Mindset." While they offer the reader a hopeful fix to societal challenges, the reality is much murkier. I've been a skeptical consumer when it comes to this stuff, but not skeptical enough,
...more
Rachel
May 26, 2021 rated it it was ok
It was just ok. It was interesting, as someone who was not previously familiar with the details of the replication crisis, to learn about these prominent examples. However, I felt that the book would have been better/more interesting if he had stuck to the topic at hand (the replication crisis in psychological research and, more specifically, how and why the reporting on said research is so inaccurate and misleading) and how to fix THAT issue. Instead at the end of each chapter he veers off into ...more
Rishabh Srivastava
Jun 09, 2021 rated it liked it
This book is half a study of “fad” social science ideas that were falsely adopted by mainstream politicians, and half the author’s rants on social issues. The former is great, the latter is not

My main takeaways from the book were:

- Often, movements that are started by activists instead of researchers gain so much momentum that it becomes impossible to stop them. Because by that time, researchers don’t have the political/economic/funding incentives to discredit bad policy

- The fads that spread t
...more
Laianna
Apr 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
While at times dry and heavy on statistics, and other times overly broad and prone to generalization, The Quick Fix is a fascinating deep dive into how fad behavioral (pseudo) science left unchecked can have dangerous repercussions on almost all areas of life. Having grown up in the “self-esteem” era of flawed fad psychology, I was genuinely shocked to learn that most of what I thought I knew about self-esteem is a myth. I was even more dismayed to read the chapters on the military preaching “gr ...more
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
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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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