Why less is more?

less is more

The title sounds confusing, right? Well, there is a lot more to this than we might think. Let us take the small example of Lotus Cars’ founder Colin Chapman. He based his whole career on the importance of simplicity on everything and how vital it is to keep things simple. This in fact, according to Chapman makes things much more doable.

Why are simple things better?

We often wonder why less is often more. It sounds like a paradoxical concept by the truth is that things make more sense when they are done with a more simple and mature approach.

According to a paper published in Nature, it said that humans tend to overcomplicate things. Not only this, we somehow always choose to take the tougher way out when we know that we have other options.

Gabrielle Adams, the first author of Nature states that this theory was based on everyday observations of other people and not any psychological study. And this study indicates that the human mind does not have much space for this “why less is often more” mentality and the people had to be reminded of this again and again.

At the University of Virginia, Gabrielle Adams conducted several observational studies. This study involved several different experiments like arranging a pattern on a grid of colored squares.

According to Adams, most people in the study decided to add more squares instead of removing old ones. This was just one of the experiments that proved the human need to keep adding more instead of subtracting.

In other tasks that involved similar activities, less than 50% of the participants felt that removing a part of the puzzle was a good idea instead of adding.

This shows the human psyche of preferring to keep things a lot less simple than they should be. When the participants were asked to write an essay, almost 16% removed words and 80% added them.

These results were not just found in a lab. Even out of the 827 suggestions received by a university on how to make things better, 581 of those suggestions involved people saying that more things should be added instead of being removed. Only 70 suggested the removal of certain factors.

Why was this the case?

The results indefinitely revealed that adding more instead of subtracting was the more popular approach but the researchers had to figure out why? One of the possibilities was that the people knew about the subtractive options and probably even considered them and chose not to use them on purpose.

The other possibility was that they were not even considering them and so, a whole new series of experiments had to be carried out.

In some experiments, the researchers tilted the whole experiment in favor of subtraction which did have some effect on the results but not too much. One of the experiments asked the participants to rearrange a Lego structure.

And the interesting part in this was that the researchers offered a small amount of money as a reward for each Lego piece that was cut. This was a clear incentive which was also not enough. Even after this, only 41% did what the researchers wanted.

The researchers realized as the experiments were carried out that the more people practiced subtractive techniques, the more were the chances of them adopting this method.

However, this theory also went into the background when it was seen that the people were less likely to choose the subtractive approach when they were involved in some other activity because they had a “cognitive load” on their minds.

Yet another cognitive bias

Another researcher, Benjamin Converse has pointed out that this set of studies could give rise to a new theory of cognitive bias that indicated how and what humans might think.

The 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was given to the idea that humans cannot be simply labeled as “rational” in the field of economics. According to this theory, humans tend to choose the easier and quicker way out as opposed to the one that involves more effort and time.

These experiments carried out by Gabrielle Adams and her team show that such an instinct of getting quicker results does not really help humans and instead just causes them to make rash decisions. We think as a human, we can agree as we know a thing or two about making bad decisions.  And we still wonder why humans do not think less is often more.

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