Does easy to understand = true?



Things that are easy for our brain to process feel more true than concepts that are difficult to process.

This is one of the reasons we tend to like the familiar more than the unfamiliar. It’s also why we may fall for the glib and specious versus more accurate but challenging explanations.

Via The Boston Globe:

If something feels notably easy to decipher, whether it’s a piece of text or the shape of an object or the particulars of a person’s face, there’s a good chance it’s because we’ve previously done the work of processing it, and that it’s something we’ve encountered before.

Merely exposing people to something more often made them like it more:

“That gut feeling of familiarity determined by ease of processing is a very effective shorthand,” says Schwarz, a psychologist at the University of Michigan. “Having to sit down and analyze every time whether something is familiar would not be a good idea.”

Our bias for the familiar, however, can be triggered in settings where there’s little purpose to it. In the 1960s, Zajonc did a series of experiments that uncovered what he dubbed the “mere exposure” effect: He found that, with stimuli ranging from nonsense words to abstract geometric patterns to images of faces to Chinese ideographs (the test subjects, being non-Chinese speakers, didn’t know what the ideographs meant), all it took to get people to say they liked certain ones more than others was to present them multiple times.

Is a font easier to read? Then the text feels more true:

“People are very sensitive to the experience of ease or difficulty, but very insensitive to where that feeling comes from,” says Schwarz.

One thing that fools us, for example, is font. When people read something in a difficult-to-read font, they unwittingly transfer that sense of difficulty onto the topic they’re reading about. Schwarz and his former student Hyunjin Song have found that when people read about an exercise regimen or a recipe in a less legible font, they tend to rate the exercise regimen more difficult and the recipe more complicated than if they read about them in a clearer font.

Do the words rhyme all the time? If they do, the words feel true:

He found that people tended to see the rhyming ones as more accurate than the nonrhyming ones, despite the fact that, substantively, the two were identical. Phrases that are easier on the ear aren’t just catchy and easy to remember, McGlone argues, they also feel inherently truer. He calls it “the rhyme-as-reason effect.” 

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