the theory that every complex phenomenon, especially in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon.
the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.

1940–45; reduction + -ism

reductionist, noun, adjective
reductionistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
reductionism (rɪˈdʌkʃəˌnɪzəm)
1.  the analysis of complex things, data, etc, into less complex constituents
2.  derogatory often any theory or method that holds that a complex idea, system, etc, can be completely understood in terms of its simpler parts or components
n, —adj

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Encyclopedia Britannica


in philosophy, a view that asserts that entities of a given kind are collections or combinations of entities of a simpler or more basic kind or that expressions denoting such entities are definable in terms of expressions denoting the more basic entities. Thus, the ideas that physical bodies are collections of atoms or that thoughts are combinations of sense impressions are forms of reductionism.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Constructing a technology league table is always mired in reductionism.
Today's researchers, however, are increasingly hitting the limits of
The problem with modern education and research is reductionism.
Reductionism is all well and good as a method for collecting, and in a more
  limited sense, interpreting data.
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