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

By Jesse Singal

Reviewed by Peter Clarke

It’s not fun to admit, but, in most cases, there are no easy solutions to complex problems. This is the message from The Quick Fix, the inaugural book by journalist Jesse Singal. The message arrives at a time when quick fixes are promoted everywhere, including the most credible-seeming sources. Yes, that even means your favorite TED Talk – the one that profoundly shifted your way of seeing the world. According to Singal, TED Talks—along with popular self-help books—are especially susceptible to spreading questionable quick-fix ideas.

In recent years, the field of psychology has suffered a replication crisis, meaning that “a sizable chunk of published psychological findings may be false,” Singal writes. Yet, this hasn’t stopped prominent outlets from
actively promoting overblown findings. The extent of the problem revealed itself to Singal when he worked as an editor for New York Magazine’s “Science Us” section. Every day, he was sent a “fire hose of over-hyped findings” from research institutions “touting all-caps AMAZING results that would surely blow my mind.”

No doubt it’s easier to perpetuate fad psychology than it is to question its veracity. The Quick Fix is a noble—and rare—effort to do the latter. Perhaps you’ve read that boosting students’ “grit” is a great way to improve
success in school, that the “power pose” is important for achieving success on the job, or that implicit bias tests are necessary tools for combating racism or prejudice in an institution. These and many other fad
psychology findings are backed up by research and promoted by popular outlets—and none of them stand up to close examination.

The Quick Fix is certainly less riveting than a Ted Talk offering a simple guide to achieve greater success, creativity, or a path toward world peace. And Singal has sympathy for the fact that his book attacks common beliefs that many people rely on to make sense of the world. But these aren’t criticisms of Singal’s book. These are just realities that readers looking beyond quick fixes will surely appreciate.

Peter Clarke is the author of The Singularity Survival Guide and the editor-in-chief of Jokes Literary Review. See:


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