The Simple Narrative Fallacy


“Thinking that all complex problems must have a simple solution.”

An extension of Narrative Fallacy.

We see this all the time – and likely fall into the trap ourselves – of thinking that an elegantly presented explanation of a solution to a complex problem is true. The sheer elegance of it must be proof of validity.

Often accompanied by the even bigger trap of dismissing an explanation that seems complex (to us), because ‘if it’s too complex to understand it must be a scam’ and other forms. (See a local Australian example of one party not having the mental ability to understand proposed legislation, and thus considering it to be a scam – and in the process blocking crucial growth for the country.)

Part of the problem is our love of ‘storytelling‘ (or so the marketers would tell us), that has unfortunately been mangled into an attempt to provide a story for everything – even when one may not apply (eg again, see Narrative Fallacy).

Note: I’m all for embracing Occam’s Razor, but also reminded of the aphorism that ‘Everything should be as simple as possible, but no more.’ (often attributed to Einstein) ie oversimplification is to be avoided.

Typical examples of Simple Narrative Fallacy we all endure (or perhaps create) regularly:

  • Armchair analysts on social proposing simple solutions to the Ukraine invasion
  • Family gatherings proposing simple solutions to climate change
  • Thinking a simple tax on the wealthy is: (1) easy to implement, and (2) going to solve poverty
  • Thinking immigration is a simple issue to manage
  • Thinking we understand global financial machinations and how we’d manage interest rate rises
  • Thinking we have an informed view on how legislation should be applied to technology and AI advancement
  • Thinking skills in one arena mean we automatically have wisdom and skills in another (eg that we can run a social network)
  • Thinking one simple trick will give us 6 pack abs


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By Craig Bailey