Simplicity and goodness-of-fit in explanation: The case of Intuitive curve-fitting

Samuel G. B. Johnson, Andy Jin, Frank C. Keil

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Other things being equal, people prefer simpler explanations to more complex ones. However, complex explanations often provide better fits to the observed data, and goodness-of-fit must therefore be traded off against simplicity to arrive at the most likely explanation. In three experiments, we examine how people negotiate this trade- off. As a case study, we investigate laypeople’s intuitions about curve-fitting in visually presented graphs, a domain with established quantitative criteria for trading off simplicity and goodness-of-fit. We examine whether people are well-calibrated to normative criteria, or whether they instead have an underfitting or overfitting bias (Experiment 1), we test people’s intuitions in cases where simplicity and goodness-of-fit are no longer inversely correlated (Experiment 2), and we directly measure judgments concerning the complexity and goodness-of-fit in a set of curves (Experiment 3). To explain these findings, we posit a new heuristic: That the complexity of an explanation is used to estimate its goodness-of-fit to the data.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication36th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Subtitle of host publicationCognitive Science Meets Artificial Intelligence: Human and Artificial Agents in Interactive Contexts
Place of PublicationAustin, Texas, USA
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Pages701-706
ISBN (Print)9781634391160
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event36th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society: Cognitive Science Meets Artificial Intelligence: Human and Artificial Agents in Interactive Contexts - Quebec City, Canada
Duration: 23 Jul 201426 Jul 2014

Conference

Conference36th annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
Abbreviated titleCogSci 2014
CountryCanada
CityQuebec City
Period23/07/1426/07/14

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