Ambiguity Effect - Cognitive Biases (Pt.1)

in #cognitive-biases8 years ago (edited)


The allure of simplicity over accurate complexity.

First, an explanation on the words simplicity and ambiguity. Skip to the examples below if you want the "simple" understanding.


Simplicity favors looking at something in a larger, less specific, less detailed, less defined way. It looks at common unifying aspects to connect them in a general reference. A unity towards a general theme, to provide less information, as opposed to greater division, variability, multiplicity and duplicity of the depth of complexity in reality, existence and truth. Truth is complex, not simple.

Ambiguity leaves things more open. It's less specific, and can have multiple layers of meaning, which can shift and change according to how a certain meaning applies to a context. This means less precise definitions and less clarity. The ability to pinpoint a specific aspect of reality is reduced, as you speak in more general terms. It's a wandering about to encompass more generality rather than less through focusing and pinpointing something specific.

Language itself can be ambiguous. Sometimes words have multiple layers of meaning. Understanding the meaning of words as accurately as we can is important in order to more accurately reference reality with greater degrees of clarity.

In the end, less definition of detail is less clarity of precision. But, we don't see less clarity of the unknown we lack knowing, because the allure of simplicity provides a general overall image for us to know something about. We see something and that's "good enough". We favor this known comprehension, although limited and oversimplified, in favor of recognizing the unknown information we lack comprehension of that can be known through more depth of inquiry.

Simplicity and ambiguity can ignore the doubt and curiosity to learn more, because we think we already "know enough" about something because of how "simple" and "connected/united" it is with other things we might know or think we know. We will favor something known with a simple explanation, over the unknown that requires more time, effort, energy and thinking to look into.

When making decisions, we often are under the restriction of time. We feel the need to act in the "now" to get something done. We will choose a vague piece of general knowledge that is less clear, over taking the time and effort that would produce better results in the long term through more accurate, clear, refined and precise understanding of the intricacies and dynamics involved.

Knowledge of something now, is preferable to lack of knowledge of something now (an unknown). Rather than take the time to be better informed to make a better decision that minimizes the chances of being wrong, we will often choose to avoid taking the time, energy and effort to learn more, and instead choose to act on the immediacy of knowledge we currently have.

Something fixed or static as a known constant (order, stable, secure, comfortable), is preferable to something that changes or is dynamic as an unknown variable (chaos, unstable, insecure, discomfort, fear).

The universal general understanding is always predicated upon the individual particulars in reality. Time, effort and energy is required to learn more about the complexity of existence and truth.


  1. When reviewing products to potentially buy, we will often choose a product with known reviews, instead of a product with no reviews, or little reviews (an unknown product).

  2. Fixed rate mortgages that lock you into something you know, vs. a variable changing mortgage that you don't know what it will be, which is the fear of the unknown. People often pick the comfort and security of an interest rate they know upfront, rather than the unknown that may benefit them more in the long run.

  3. A used car for sale that has a known crash report for an accident, while another used car does not have a report to indicate if it has had a crash or not. A buyer will often choose the known car with a crash, over the other that isn't known to have a crash or not.

[Image source]

Bias Category: Decision-making, belief, and behavioral biases

Do you want to learn more? ---> Wikipedia list of cognitive biases

Thank you for reading! I appreciate the knowledge reaching more people. Take care. Peace.

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Author: Kris Nelson / @krnel
Contact: [email protected]
Date: 2016-09-21, 8:05am EST


A star to me is a light in the night sky, and nothing else beyond that

The child in me wishes the world was black and white. All I see are greys. Anyone can be the antagonist or protagonist depending on the view we are looking at their actions through.

Can you elaborate on what that means in relation to the post? Thanks.

It's the train of thought you sparked in me talking about simplicity vs. ambiguity. Life is not simple. Ok, here I go again. It's not good vs. evil. That would be too simple, and untrue. People are more likely to be grey, than this black or white. We're all capable of good actions and evil actions.

I see. Yes. We have potentials of both good and evil. Those are absolutes, we are not absolutely one or the other, but can exemplify aspects of each depending on our behavior.

Well written, and an interesting topic. I like it.

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