‘The Untapped Science of Less’ with Leidy Klotz


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Joining Indre on the podcast today is University of Virginia Professor, Leidy Klotz. A former professional soccer player, Leidy has gone on to pursue his interest in studying how we transform things from how they are to how we want them to be, and has written for a number of prominent publications including The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, and The Behavioral Scientist. His new book, Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, explores the concept of subtraction as an effective yet often overlooked problem-solving strategy, and forms the basis for today’s fascinating episode.

Leidy begins by sharing the details of his journey to his current role and research, his interest in the science behind using subtraction to improve our lives, and a look at those such as Marie Kondo who have championed this approach. He then proceeds to explain the cognitive load concept and experiments regarding it, his findings regarding the different domains in which he found bias toward addition, reframing the concept of subtraction, and the current and future impact of pandemic inspired subtractions. Our guest concludes the episode by sharing what is coming up next for him. Leidy Klotz’s passion for his ‘favorite’ and ‘most valuable research’ is on full display here today as he makes the case for the often overlooked power of subtraction and the role it can play not only in supporting our own wellness, but that of the environment as well.

The Finer Details of This Episode:

  • Leidy’s journey to the work he does now
  • His interest in the science of improving our lives through subtraction
  • Marie Kondo
  • Cognitive load experiments
  • The different domains in which he has found the bias for addition
  • Subtraction and the pandemic
  • The reasons we believe that it’s better to add
  • Reframing subtraction
  • Pandemic inspired subtractions that can benefit the environment
  • What’s next for Leidy


“There've always been prophets…telling us to subtract in cases where we might otherwise overlook it.”

“Our default tendency, when we encounter something we want to change, is to think about what we're going to add to it.”

“This kind of bias towards adding is automatic, as opposed to something that we're deliberating about, and then deciding the adding is better.”

“Emergency zoom about zoom fatigue. Everybody, welcome.”

“If you really want to subtract, you've got to actually take something away that you're already doing.”

“We're wired to acquire.”

“But what's really cool about the science, I think, is that it shows that the fundamental problem is that we overlook subtraction.”

“Understanding the science, understanding the forces that are pulling us towards addition, I think that's why it warranted a book.”

“Carbon emissions were actually trending in the right direction for, like, the first time in industrialized society’s history.”

“People have recognized that podcasts are useful even if you're not on a train.”

“You've made a really excellent case in the book and in your body of work that we, first off, do neglect subtraction - that that's not something that we think about first - and yet that the benefits of subtraction really seem to...counter this kind of bias towards addition.”

“A combination of continuing to look for basic questions about how we create our world, and also continuing to explore subtraction.”

Show Links:

Inquiring Minds Podcast Homepage

Leidy's Homepage

Subtraction: The Untapped Science of Less

Support the show: https://www.patreon.com/inquiringminds

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