Unfogged Mobile

More psychology mumbo-jumbo
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 04.16.21

1. Apparently there's a new mental heuristic that fails us in certain conditions in town!

[W]hen faced with a problem, people tend to select solutions that involve adding new elements rather than taking existing components away.

So in other words, when you're hunting for a solution, it takes a little extra cognitive load to consider subtractive solutions than just additive ones. People do it, but it's less likely to be the first thing they think of to try.

This makes intuitive sense to me: if you're adding something, you can think about the thing, and then glom it on like a graft to the existing situation. If you're subtracting something, you have to understand the entire system, and observe that it might work more efficiently without this impediment. You have to understand how the thing is situated within the system, and why it mucks it up.

It also matches my personal experience: it feels reasonable to take the existing set-up of a problem as your starting point, and look to see how to tweak/change/add to it. It takes an extra beat to consider removing something that might be impeding the situation. If you're writing something, your first impulse is to add more and more, to get your point across, and it is a later stage of editing or maturity when you can remove parts.

The article takes this as an individual mental bias, but it's obviously a group bias as well, for different reasons. It's much easier to add elements than subtract things, because every thing you might subtract is someone's pet thing. You can add to a curriculum all day long, but good luck arguing that cursive is not the most important skill for a 7 year old anymore.

2. This is not worth it's own post, but: it seemed to take me about half a year to accept that Trump was actually the fucking president. I had a memory of writing "How is this shithead still our president?!" nearly exactly four years ago.

And now, it's like he's a million miles away. Like he was packed into a silver capsule and launched into orbit, and in the sequel he's been mostly written out of the plot, but occasionally they show his face behind the glass look-out panel.

This is more a comment about the mental gymnastics it takes to get my dumb brain to believe that that shithead held the presidency, than anything else.

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