Researchers at the University of Virginia have been using experiments based around LEGO bricks to learn more about how our brains work.
During a study, participants were given a variety of tasks, including trying to stabilise the top of a LEGO build. They could add bricks at a cost or take them away for free. Removing bricks was easier and cheaper, but 60% of participants still preferred to add bricks. They were also less likely to notice when taking bricks away might help them stabilise the structure and were more likely to add even more bricks when time was tight or they had lots of different factors to consider.
“Additive ideas come to mind quickly and easily, but subtractive ideas require more cognitive effort,” report co-author Benjamin Converse told Science Daily. “Because people are often moving fast and working with the first ideas that come to mind, they end up accepting additive solutions without considering subtraction at all.”
The researchers hope that their discoveries can help us not just understand how our brains work better, but also influence how we impact the planet, make decisions, and even design technology. They believe that it might be possible for us to control our instincts and learn how to make more careful choices. For example, when participants were prompted and reminded that removing pieces was free, more people started taking away bricks.
“I think our research has tremendous implications across contexts, especially in engineering, to improve how we design technology to benefit humanity,” said another author, Leidy Klotz.