Lucian M. Ashworth By: Lucian M. Ashworth
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19 Jun 2020 : The Einstellung Effect

In a recent online article a colleague of mine discussed the oft-used aphorism that when all you have is a hammer all problems look like a nail (available here). I believe that in psychology this is related to the Einstellung Effect: how our previous experiences negatively effect our ability to solve problems.

I was reminded of this with two recent publications, one of which is a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the other an article in Nature Communications.

In the IEA report (reported here) the Agency warns that pandemic stimulus spending is going to the wrong industries, and as a result demand for fossil fuels are likely to return to pre-pandemic levels if nothing is done to reverse the trend.

In the Nature Communications article (here) a group of scientists demonstrate how growth in competitive markets (and consumption by the affluent) is preventing the change necessary to solve the environmental crisis.

In both cases we see the Einstellung effect in full force. The normal paths for economic stimulus and assumptions about what economic health looks like lead us on the path towards disaster. We desperately need new tools in our tool box. We just have way too many hammers.

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