The intersection of behavioral science and user interaction with the built environment has produced engineering advances that address sustainability challenges. This project will apply behavioral science to built environment design. Specifically the project team will investigate the concept of “subtraction blindness”. Subtraction blindness is the idea that when people think about changing or improving something, they apply an implicit bias to add rather than subtract from what already exists.

In contexts ranging from pattern perception to product design to patent applications, the team investigates whether – compared to subtracting – adding is a more psychologically-accessible method of bringing about change.The team’s hypothesis is that people add rather than subtract when trying to bring about change or improvement. They also plan to study whether “subtraction blindness” leads people to generate solutions that are objectively worse, for example, generating designs that waste resources.