People add by default even when subtraction makes more sense

Picture a bridge made of Legos. One side has three support pieces, the other two. How would you stabilize the bridge?

Most people would add a piece so that there are three supports on each side, a new study suggests. But why not remove a piece so that each side has two supports instead? It turns out that getting people to subtract — whether a Lego block, ingredients in a recipe or words in an essay — requires reminders and rewards, researchers report April 7 in Nature.

This default to addition isn’t limited to assembling blocks, cooking and writing. Rather, thinking in pluses instead of minuses could well contribute

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