Easy = True – The Boston Globe


Easy = True – The Boston Globe.

This  is a fascinating article on the concept of “cognitive fluency” and before I lose all of you, the title of the article gets the main idea across – simple ideas are more likely to be perceived as true.

The idea is that if something is easy to process this may be a proxy for something you have encountered it before and it is therefore not a threat – to quote – “If it’s familiar, it hasn’t eaten you yet”.

The article makes links to simplicity, clarity and repetition as tools that will win the reader’s trust.

Where I have made links with my own work is that on review of texts I look for ways to increase flow, chop down sentences that have too many concepts embedded in them and to take out unnecessary text when possible to up the fluency of complex texts.

Also fascinating in this piece, is the argument that disfluency is sometimes what’s needed.  Specifically, if you want people to engage material and bring innovation, it’s best to present the material in a more complex way to slow people’s processing down.

Lastly, the article talks about the use of cognitive fluency to influence behaviour.  For example, students asked to come up with a short list of why they would do well on an exam, did better on the exam than those who were asked for a long list – that’s because a short list was easy to prepare.  Even more interestingly, students asked to write a short list of why they would do poorly didn’t do as well as those asked to write a long list – because the latter task was harder, it boosted their confidence giving them reassurance that there weren’t too many reasons why they wouldn’t perform well.


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