Driven to Distraction at Work, and the Making of Behavioral Economics, Misbehaving

Published date01 November 2015
Date01 November 2015
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (
DOI 10.1002/jcaf.22106
Driven to Distraction at Work, and
the Making of Behavioral Economics,
David M. Cannon and Stephen R. Goldberg
Hallowell, Edward M., 2015.
Driven to Distraction at Work:
How to Focus and Be More Pro-
ductive (Boston, MA: Harvard
Business Review Press)
Thaler, Richard H., 2015, Misbe-
having: The Making of Behavio-
ral Economics (New York, NY:
W. W. Norton & Company)
In the first book we review,
Hallowell describes a condi-
tion he refers to as attention
deficit trait caused by today’s
demanding environment and
then suggests ways to treat this
disorder. In our second book,
Thaler takes us through the his-
tory of and explains a relatively
new but flourishing field called
behavioral economics. The clas-
sical model of viewing people
as rational economic optimiz-
ers is modified to a more realis-
tic view of human behavior.
Modern life, with its 24/7
connectivity through texts and
e‐mail, excessive work due to
downsizing and budget pres-
sures, and a dizzying array
and plentitude of decisions
to be made, creates unprec-
edented demands on a per-
son’s energy and focus. Many
respond to these demands
with either paralysis or a fre-
netic herculean effort where,
in either case, things never
seem to get done. In his new
book, Driven to Distraction
at Work, psychiatrist Edward
Hallowell contends that the
work environment and mod-
ern life in general have given
rise to a condition that he
calls attention deficit trait or
ADT. ADT’s symptoms are
similar to attention deficit
disorder (ADD) and attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD), but differ in that
ADT is caused by the environ-
ment, while ADD and ADHD
are of genetic origin. Unlike
ADD and ADHD, symptoms
can come and go with ADT.
For example, ADT symptoms
may not be present while on
vacation or over a weekend
when the individual is removed
from the work environment.
Driven to Distraction is
organized into an introduction
and two parts of six chapters
each. In the introduction, the
author introduces ADT and
the criteria that define the
malady. He also introduces five
elements that can be used to
analyze, understand, and use
as a basis for a strategy to miti-
gate ADT. Energy, specifically
the supply of brain energy,
emotion, engagement, struc-
ture, and control differs across
categories of ADT and can be
used to create a strategy to deal
with ADT.

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