Changing Through Subtraction

When people think about changing or improving something, do they add or subtract from what already exists?

How do people conceptualize change - in particular, change that is geared toward improvement? When peopleconsider how to improve an idea, a design, a product, or a structure, they tendto add rather than subtract from it. Why does this "subtraction blindness" exist and where does it come from?

In contexts ranging from pattern perception to product design to patent applications, we plan to investigate whether - compared to subtracting - adding is a morepsychologically-accessible method of bringing about change. In short, our hypothesis is that people add rather than subtract when trying to bring about change or improvement. We also plan to study whether "subtraction blindness" leads people to generatesolutions that are objectively worse, for example, generating designs that waste resources.      

I am willing to self-fund my token. Gabrielle Adams.




Desired outcomes

We plan to build a research program in this area by combining insights from social psychology, civil engineering, architecture, public policy, and organizational behavior. Because this project has applications in all of these fields, we consider it to be truly interdisciplinary in its approach and contribution. We hope that this project will result in external funding, academic and popular press publications, and that the findings will be disseminated widely to influence how people think about change.