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What is Maslow’s Hammer?

minute read

Maslow's Hammer says that we rely too much on familiar tools (not because they're good - only because they're familiar). As the saying goes, “When you have a hammer, everything’s a nail.”

It's why doctors are more likely to recommend surgery for back pain than alternative treatments like massage or chiro. Or why advertising agencies think a great creative campaign is the solution to a brand's bigger issues (like Oately or Burger King).

To avoid Maslow's Hammer, ask yourself:⁠

  • 🤔 Is this ACTUALLY the right tool or approach, or am I using it because I feel familiar with it?⁠
  • 🤔 Is this my default way of thinking, or is this framework/platform/tool the best way to solve this issue?⁠

Maslow’s Hammer is a type of cognitive bias - a systematic error in thinking. Cognitive biases describe the ways our thinking can go wrong - and anyone can fall prey to them. It doesn't matter if you're a PhD or a high school student, the CEO or an intern.

Here's how to avoid Cognitive Biases in your thinking:

  • ✅ Be aware of the common cognitive biases that exist.⁠
  • ✅ Actively challenge your thinking with questions like the ones I’ve included in this post (look in the carousel below 👇 )
  • ✅ Pay attention and actively work to combat cognitive biases in your decision-making process.


Want to learn more about how your buyers tick (using marketing psychology, behavioral science, and predictive AI)?

👉 When you’re ready, Choice Hacking can help:

About the author

Jen Clinehens, MS/MBA

Hi 👋 I'm Jen Clinehens (MS, MBA) the founder and Managing Director of Choice Hacking.

I started Choice Hacking in 2021 to help marketers and entrepreneurs figure out what makes buyers tick, and elevate their work using behavioral science, marketing psychology, and AI.

If you want to learn more, check out links to my newsletter, podcast, YouTube channel and other free resources below 👇


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