There's a name of a psychological condition/behavior/phenomenon to describe the fact that a small increase in the difficulty of a task will prevent a person from doing the task at all. It stems from psychology and behavioral analysis, and it's often referred to by experimenters. It has implications in Computer Science with regards to users and the amount of effort required to complete a task in a program.

I can't recall what it is, and I'm having no luck with DDG.

I believe its 2 or 3 words together, and when I last read about it, it was on Wikipedia; I just can't recall its name. It's a specific name of a thing. I believe I've also seen it referenced in the SE communities on various meta.SE's.


Some scientists running an experiment would take note of how test subjects would choose between a set of things. If one of the things was slightly more difficult to obtain, often that slight increase in difficulty would be sufficient to prevent the test subjects from choosing that thing, and would instead choose the less difficult thing.

More concrete example

In more concrete terms, if the test subjects were supposed to pick up cards, then most test subjects would pick up cards off of the table because bending down to the floor would be slightly more difficult.

  • ...like a "tipping point?" – Cascabel Jan 30 '19 at 19:44
  • That's a common's man way of referring to the phenomenon, but there's a specific technical term I'm looking for. – YetAnotherRandomUser Jan 30 '19 at 19:49
  • You are not giving us much to go on...you need to provide more context, and a sample sentence as the SWR tag requires. If it is a technical term, you need to specify that. – Cascabel Jan 30 '19 at 20:09
  • For me it's "housework". – Hot Licks Mar 2 '19 at 3:03

"Learned helplessness" is a stage in the reaction to increasingly difficult circumstances that ultimately become unresolvable. Might that be it?

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I tried looking via the route of avoidant personality disorder per the DSM-V, and came across the term cognitive effort avoidance, which may be what you're looking for.

The term implies avoiding tasks because they require cognitive effort, like some people are averse to doing mathematical calculations because they require logical and semantic order, and some people are averse to academic writing because it requires employing a larger vocabulary than everyday speech. Of course, I'm probably conflating something here, but I would assume that the increasing cognitive effort required to perform a task is the factor that generates the avoidance.

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