There's some evidence that, when presented with a problem, we'll tend to favor solutions that involve adding something new over solutions that involve the subtraction of some existing element.
One study on this tendency published in 2021 found that we don't necessarily struggle to process solutions that involve subtraction rather than addition, we just tend to find adding things more obvious in most cases.
This effect seems to be amplified when problem-solvers are under a heightened cognitive load (read: when they're thinking about many other things, or thinking hard about this one thing) and though folks in this study did see the value in subtractive solutions when prompted, they were less likely to immediately recognize shortcomings in additive solutions compared to shortcomings in subtractive ones.
This could be part of why so many people and societies find themselves swimming in responsibilities, regulations, and overabundance that somehow only seems to make things worse. Rather than assessing all solutions in a balanced way, we may be biased toward adding more things—more resources, more rules, more habits and responsibilities—rather than the opposite; which in some cases would worsen the problems we're trying to solve.
One suggestion for why we might succumb to this bias, posited by one of the psychologists who reviewed this study, is that the sunk-cost fallacy (the inclination to keep investing in things we've already invested in rather than limiting our losses and walking away from something that's not working) may incentivize us to do so.
If we've invested a lot of time and energy and money in a certain way of working, we may be less likely to dramatically change that approach even if another, simpler, less-cumbersome model is available.
The same can be true of society-scale laws and regulations: we may add gobs of addendums and supplementary rules to existing ways of doing things rather than killing them off and replacing them with something better (or leaving a blank space where they once were) because we've already invested so much time and attention on these existing laws and rules.
It's also possible that we add rather than subtract because other people are more likely to notice new things than the absence of old things.
We might identify and remove a bunch of inefficiencies at our office, then, but that process of simplification may not be legible to our bosses: they may notice newly added rules and systems but fail to perceive the removal of the same, despite the outcomes of the latter effort being superior.
Whatever the cause underpinning this tendency, there's a slowly growing body of evidence that suggests we tend to lean toward addition rather than subtraction when solving problems, which could in turn influence how we make decisions.
Thus, it may be warranted to invest a bit of additional time and attention when we're in problem-solving mode, lest we overlook potentially better, less-cumbersome solutions.
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