The Temptation of Simplicity

The Temptation of Simplicity” is a phrase I use often to illustrate a major pitfall of human reasoning or of our non-reasoning. It is often much easier and more comfortable to believe a simple, grossly wrong explanation than a complicated, more accurate explanation. “Black and White Thinking“, also known as “splitting” in psychology, is similar. Splitting is where an individual forms extremes opposites views of a controversy: a virtuous self-preferred story and a straw man version of the opponent’s view. “Whole Package Thinking“, which I wrote about here, is also a form of the temptation of simplicity.

People often want to quickly categorize things as right or wrong. It is uncomfortable to suspend judgement. The practice of being comfortable with putting judgement on hold is what I call “Traffic Light Epistemology” (see this post). I also call it “A Nebulous Way of Knowing” (crediting David Chapman) (see this post).

But before I get too self-righteous about thinking complexly, it should be obvious that quick categorical judgement is often an adaptively adventageous skill. Sometimes it is better to judge quickly even if you risk the chance of being wrong. So for me, having both skills and discerning their use is important.

Readers: In the comments, give examples of where quick black and white thinking may be useful.

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