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Publisher's Summary

This program is read by the author.

An investigative journalist exposes the many holes in today’s best-selling 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, best-selling books, and counter-intuitive remedies for complicated problems, psychologists and other social scientists have become the reigning thinkers of our time. Grit and “power posing” promised to help overcome entrenched inequalities in schools and the workplace; the Army spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a positive psychology intervention geared at preventing PTSD in its combat soldiers; and the implicit association test swept the nation on the strength of the claim that it can reveal unconscious biases and reduce racism in police departments and human resources departments.

But what if much of the science underlying these blockbuster ideas is dubious or fallacious? What if Americans’ longstanding 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 classrooms around the country in the 1980s and the Princeton political scientist who warned of an epidemic of youthful “superpredators” in the 1990s. In both cases, a much-touted idea had little basis in reality, but had a massive impact. Turning toward the explosive popularity of 21st-century social psychology, Singal examines the misleading appeal of entertaining lab results and critiques the idea that subtle unconscious cues shape our behavior. As he shows, today’s popular behavioral science emphasizes repairing, improving, and optimizing individuals rather than truly understanding and confronting the larger structural forces that drive social ills.

Like Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All, 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.  

A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

©2021 Jesse Singal (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

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  • A. Nash
  • 2021-04-19

Interesting and valuable

This is an interesting and valuable book. It was a little boring towards the end though. That might say more about me though. Perhaps I like this book because it confirms my bias. I think that a lot of pop-psychology info that's peddled to the masses is hogwash and I'm glad to read about people poking holes in those ideas.

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  • Terry Van Loon
  • 2021-04-14

Fascinating insights

I'm a much better-educated interpreter of social science thanks to Jesse Singal. "The Quick Fix" explains the shortcomings in our headlines and how social scientists sometimes, the media most times, over hype research. Simple examples illustrate some of the oft used methods for disinformation, making it possible for me to ask better questions in future social science research.

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  • Lori Dickerson
  • 2021-04-13

Sanjay sent me

Very thoughtful and honest discussion of seldom looked into topics. Thank you Jesse! Was going to get it anyway but felt inclined to do it sooner at Sanjay’s recommendation.

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  • Grace Marie-Thérèse
  • 2021-04-08

This is why you hire professional narrators

Great book, substandard narration. Monotone etc. Buy the book (kindle or print )instead. You won’t regret it

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  • seth
  • 2021-04-08

Excellent, entertaining review of the literature

Signal reviews the lit on the replication crisis with compelling examples, without falling into the pop psych trap of sacrificing truth for narrative clarity. Would recommend to anyone, especially fans or the Blocked and Reported podcast.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-04-08

Well-communicated, well-structured, and well-intentioned

I first heard of Jesse Sinhala on the Very Bad Wizards podcast the day before release she’d immediately downloaded it. If you want a frame of reference that’s a good place to start. Jesse does a wonderful job of explaining complex concepts in a simple fashion, he’s a science communicator to look out for. The ideas he’s sharing are wonderfully useful in understanding many things at work in our world, and this book has a strong potential to sway public policy, as the industry of behavioral psychology reacts to some of the embarrassments described herein. He is fair handed though and shows great interest and admiration for the science, but the theme of this book is describing the way in which not only bogus science has been pushed, but also how valid or potentially valid science has been overblown and drastically misapplied. As an example, he spends some time pointing out past errors by Daniel Kahneman, of whom I am a big fan, in which he got caught up in poorly applied scientific thought, but also goes on to praise much of what Kahneman has done and describe his contributions. Even though he does rather eviscerate many ideas, studies, groups, and individuals which spring from the industry, he does make some effort to lend benefit of the doubt, especially where intention is concerned. Nonetheless, he also points out (maybe a bit too briefly, actually) that regardless of what the actual intentions are of poor actors, the system of rewards within the industry is structured such that the incentives defeat the integrity of the work, and threaten to collapse society’s marriage to behavioral psychology altogether. As a teenager, I would read magazines and information online that would cite study after study and suggest ways to apply those to your life, andI would take those as gospel, because I priced myself in believing in science. When I later studied health sciences in great detail I realized that they were pushing 99% merit less BS, and this is equally if notmore so true of the application of behavioral sciences. I’m glad that Jesse is doing God’s work, the difficulty and sometimes thankless job of correcting our society’s attitudes towards this useful, but limited, and developmentally infantile, science.