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Why brains solve problems by adding, not subtracting

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Have you ever noticed how we usually try and solve problems by adding more, rather than taking away? More meetings, more forms, more buttons, more shelves, more systems, more code, and so on. Now scientists think they might know the reason why.

A study of 1,585 people across 8 different experiments showed that our brains tend to default to addition rather than subtraction when it comes to finding solutions – in many cases, it seems we just don't consider the strategy of taking something away at all.

The researchers found that this preference for adding was noticeable in three scenarios in particular: when people were under higher cognitive load, when there was less time to consider the other options, and when volunteers didn't get a specific reminder that subtracting was an option.


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