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Examples of Occam's Razor

The term Occam’s razor refers to the philosophical idea or scientific principle that of any given set of explanations for an event occurring, it is most likely that the simplest one is the correct one. Occam’s razor does not seek to offer complete and absolute proof, but to find the simplest probable answer to a question of why an event happened.

Best Explanation Is the Simplest

Some examples of Occam’s razor include the following:

  • Event: One of the fence posts is broken. Of possible explanations a) A moose ran through it or b) Some screws fell out of it because it is old, “b” is the likelier explanation.
  • Event: The tire on the car is flat. Of possible explanations a) It has a screw in it and b) A serial tire-flattener came through the neighbor and sliced the tire open, explanation “a” is more likely.
  • Event: It is raining and I saw a bright flash through my curtains. Of possible explanations a) There was lightning or b) Someone is trying to take pictures of me in the house, explanation “a” is more likely.
  • Event: A student failed the statistics test. Of possible explanations a) The student needed to study harder or b) The professor changed his answers on the test because he does not like the student, explanation “a” is more likely.
  • Event: A car rear-ended another in highway traffic during rush hour. Of possible explanations a) The driver did not expect traffic to come to a stop so quickly in rush hour and therefore did not apply the brakes quickly enough or b) The driver was distracted by an elephant on the side of the road, explanation “a” is more likely.
  • Event: A loud noise is heard in an apartment that is next to a busy highway. Of possible explanations a) A bomb was dropped in the immediate area or b) A truck backfired, explanation “b” is more likely.
  • Event: A woman is nauseous several hours after eating at a restaurant. Of possible explanations a) She may have food poisoning or b) She is suffering from stomach cancer, explanation “a” is more likely.
  • Event: A roast beef in the oven burns to a crisp after being in the oven for only one hour. Of possible explanations a) Someone came into the house and turned up the oven temperature temporarily and b) The oven’s temperature gauge needs to be re-calibrated, explanation “b” is most likely.
  • Event: A dog owner comes home to the trash can tipped over and trash is scattered on the floor. Of possible explanations a) The dog tipped the trash can over and b) Someone broke into the house and sorted through the trash can, explanation “a” is more likely.
  • Event: A ball rolls out into the road in a residential area in front of a man’s car. Of possible explanations a) Some children are playing ball and it accidentally rolled into the road and b) Someone is maliciously attempting to cause an accident, explanation “a” makes the most sense.

So now you see how Occam’s razor works. It usually makes sense to chose the most logical explanation for any given problem or in any given situation and odds are that you will be right most of the time.


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