Simplicity bias is a cognitive bias towards holding views which can be explained by a simple narrative, as opposed to views which take more complex details into account and are generally more accurate, realistic, and "balanced".
This bias is due to the fact that detailed memory is a scarce resource and that it is much easier to remember details that fit neatly into a one-sided conclusion.
Simplicity bias has not been formally studied and so far has only been observed anecdotally; it is essentially an untested hypothesis.
Simplicity bias is one of the largest causes of partisanship: having been exposed to the facts supporting one side of a dispute, it becomes much more difficult to remember facts which do not support that side. Individuals thus tend to favor the "side" to which they were first exposed, regardless of new evidence.
- Simplicity bias is often confused with Occam's razor, which holds that the simplest conclusion that fits the available data is usually the best. Simplicity bias tends to ignore any data that doesn't fit the current conclusion, while Occam's razor must take into account any evidence offered.
- Simplicity bias is related to confirmation bias, the Semmelweis reflex, the clustering illusion, and possibly other cognitive biases.
One method of overcoming this bias, for any given subject, is as follows:
- Write down a summary of every known significant fact about the subject.
- In a separate designated area, write down any conclusions that seem to follow from these facts.
- As new information is encountered, add these facts to the collection regardless of whether they appear to support the current conclusions.
- If new information does seem to counter any existing conclusions, review the entire body of fact-summaries and make any necessary changes to the conclusions written.
- If possible, keep a log of the changes made to these conclusions so that this can be tracked over time; if you are keeping your records on a wiki, this is generally automatic.
- When making decisions on the subject, always consult your written conclusions (in case you remembered them wrong), and always be prepared to add new information if it is encountered in the course of further discussion.
This overcomes the unavailability of adequate storage capability in most people's minds, and allows every important detail to be accounted for. It also greatly facilitates sharing of evidence, which is vital for rational discussion and improves the detectability of one's own rationality.