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Volume 592 Issue 7853, 8 April 2021

Less is more

Any attempt to improve an object, idea or situation involves a mental search for possible changes. In this week’s issue, Gabrielle Adams, Benjamin Converse and their colleagues reveal that people tend to solve these challenges by adding extra elements even when taking something away would be simpler and more advantageous. The researchers examined how people approached a range of problems, including solving a geometrical puzzle, stabilizing a Lego structure and improving a miniature golf course. They found that people typically default to searching for additive solutions and only consider subtractive solutions when they are able and willing to invest more effort. The team suggests that subtractive solutions are cognitively less accessible to people, and the fact we continually seek to solve problems by adding elements to them may help explain why we struggle to mitigate problems such as overwhelming schedules, excessive red tape and an overburdened planet.

Cover image: Kelly Krause/Nature.

This Week

News in Focus




    News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A series of problem-solving experiments reveal that people are more likely to consider solutions that add features than solutions that remove them, even when removing features is more efficient.

    • Tom Meyvis
    •  & Heeyoung Yoon
  • News & Views |

    A microchip-based quantum computer has been built incorporating an architecture in which calculations are carried out by shuttling atomic ions. The device exhibits excellent performance and potential for scaling up.

    • Winfried K. Hensinger
  • News & Views |

    Electrons usually move more freely at higher temperatures. But they have now been observed to ‘freeze’ as the temperature rises, in a system consisting of two stacked, but slightly misaligned, graphene sheets.

    • Biao Lian
  • Perspective

  • Perspective | | Open Access

    This Perspective discusses how the Somatic Cell Genome Editing Consortium aims to accelerate the implementation of safe and effective genome-editing therapies in the clinic.

    • Krishanu Saha
    • , Erik J. Sontheimer
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  • Articles

  • Article |

    The quantum charge-coupled device architecture is demonstrated, with its various elements integrated into a programmable trapped-ion quantum computer and performing simple quantum operations with state-of-the-art levels of error.

    • J. M. Pino
    • , J. M. Dreiling
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    Magic-angle graphene is found to have an exotic phase transition where, on heating, entropy is transferred from motional to magnetic degrees of freedom, analogously to the Pomeranchuk effect in 3He.

    • Asaf Rozen
    • , Jeong Min Park
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    An electronic analogue of the Pomeranchuk effect is present in twisted bilayer graphene, shown by the stability of entropy in a ferromagnetic phase compared to an unpolarized Fermi liquid phase at certain high temperatures.

    • Yu Saito
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    A diversity-oriented synthesis approach that yields a library of architecturally broad microporous polymers is used to develop structurally diverse polymer membranes with ion specificity and to screen their properties.

    • Miranda J. Baran
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    Sulfur isotope and iron–sulfur–carbon systematics on marine sediments indicate that permanent atmospheric oxygenation occurred around 2.22 billion years ago, about 100 million years later than currently estimated.

    • Simon W. Poulton
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    Relationships between leaf size and vein architecture in more than 1,700 grass species worldwide show that grasses native to colder and drier climates have shorter and narrower leaves that provide them with physiological advantages.

    • Alec S. Baird
    • , Samuel H. Taylor
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  • Article |

    Human populations in the southern Africa interior were collecting non-utilitarian objects at around 105,000 years ago, suggesting that the development of this innovative behaviour did not depend on exploiting coastal resources.

    • Jayne Wilkins
    • , Benjamin J. Schoville
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  • Article | | Open Access

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    • Mateja Hajdinjak
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    •  & Svante Pääbo
  • Article |

    Observational and experimental studies of people seeking to improve objects, ideas or situations demonstrate that people default to searching for solutions that add new components rather than for solutions that remove existing components.

    • Gabrielle S. Adams
    • , Benjamin A. Converse
    •  & Leidy E. Klotz
  • Article |

    Deep-brain calcium imaging of mice engaged in social or spatial exploration reveals that these state-dependent behaviours are encoded by distinct neuronal ensembles of the basolateral amygdala.

    • Maria Sol Fustiñana
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    Chronic infection with SARS-CoV-2 leads to the emergence of viral variants that show reduced susceptibility to neutralizing antibodies in an immunosuppressed individual treated with convalescent plasma.

    • Steven A. Kemp
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    • Annette B. Vogel
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    • Darlan C. Minussi
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  • Article |

    A ChIP–exo method is used to define the genome-wide positional organization of proteins associated with gene transcription, DNA replication, centromeres, subtelomeres and transposons, revealing distinct protein assemblies for constitutive and inducible gene expression.

    • Matthew J. Rossi
    • , Prashant K. Kuntala
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