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

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

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An investigative journalist exposes the many holes in today's bestselling behavioral science, and argues that the trendy, TED-Talk-friendly psychological interventions will never be enough to truly address social injustice and inequality.

Through their viral TED Talks, bestselling books, and counterintuitive remedies for complicated problems, psychologists and allied social scientists have become leading thinkers of our time. "Power posing" and "grit," they say, can help individuals overcome entrenched inequality in schools and the workplace. Positive psychologists inspired the U.S. Army to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on an intervention geared toward preventing PTSD in its combat soldiers. The implicit association test swept the nation on the claim that it can reveal unconscious biases and reduce racism in police and human resources departments. But what if much of the science underlying these blockbuster ideas is dubious or fallacious? What if Americans' long-standing preference for simplistic self-help platitudes is exerting a pernicious influence on the way behavioral science is communicated and even funded, leading respected academics and the media astray?

In The Quick Fix, Jesse Singal examines the most influential ideas of recent decades and the shaky science that supports them. He begins with the California legislator who introduced self-esteem into the nation's classrooms in the 1980s and the Princeton political scientist who warned of an epidemic of youthful "superpredators" in the 1990s. Both much-touted ideas had little basis in reality, but a massive impact.

Then, turning to the explosive popularity of twenty-first-century social psychology, Singal examines the misleading appeal of entertaining lab results and critiques the idea that the subtle unconscious cues known as "primes" shape our behavior. As he shows, today's popular behavioral science emphasizes repairing, improving, and optimizing individuals rather than understanding and confronting the larger structural forces that drive social ills. The Quick Fix is a fresh and powerful indictment of the thought leaders and influencers who cut corners as they sell the public half-baked solutions to problems that deserve more serious treatment.

Author: Jesse Singal
Publisher: Picador USA
Published: 04/05/2022
Pages: 352
Binding Type: Paperback
Weight: 0.66lbs
Size: 8.34h x 5.51w x 0.94d
ISBN: 9781250829467

About the Author
Jesse Singal is a contributing writer at New York and the former editor of the magazine's Science of Us online vertical, as well as the cohost of the podcast Blocked and Reported. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, The Boston Globe, The Daily Beast, and other outlets. He was a Robert Bosch Foundation fellow in Berlin and holds a master's degree from Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs.