When faced with a problem, people tend to select solutions that involve adding new elements rather than taking existing components away.1
The researchers first carried out a set of observational studies, assessments without a control group, to see whether this bias existed at all. In one, they asked 91 participants to make a pattern symmetrical by either adding or removing colored boxes. Only 18 people (20 percent) used subtraction. In another, the team scanned through an archive of ideas for improvement submitted to an incoming university president and found that only 11 percent of 651 proposals involved eliminating an existing regulation, practice or program.
These findings, which were published today in Nature, suggest that ==“additive solutions have sort of a privileged status—they tend to come to mind quickly and easily,”== says Benjamin Converse, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia and a co-author of the study. ==“Subtractive solutions are not necessarily harder to consider, but they take more effort to find.”==