Some answers feel so compelling that we oversimplify the questions we really care about in order to fit them. Clear, straightforward answers are easy to process, and that ease leads to a feeling of "rightness." As a result, we end up satisfied that the issue we had cared about is resolved. Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who studies the tricks our mind plays on us, calls the human tendency to answer hard questions with responses to simpler ones "attribute substitution." The problem is that many of the hard questions are the ones that matter most to us. We do not want to lose sight of them.
In a critical review in The New Yorker of Charles Duhigg’s book Smarter Faster Better: Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, Louis Menand argued that the self-help genre capitalizes on our attraction to easy answers....(read more)