Availability heuristic

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A mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision.

It operates on the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important. Subsequently, people tend to heavily weigh their judgements toward more recent information, making new opinions biased toward that latest news.


Examples

The media uses it constantly. Nuclear energy, for example, works fine every day without issues, but we are constantly reminded about the few times that a catastrophe happened. The only noticeable thing anyone can think of nuclear energy is when it goes wrong.


How it is exploited

Social Engineers make successes notable and failings unnoticeable for themselves, while reminding people about rival’s failings. This perpetuates the idea that the rival underperforms and makes them look better.

People don’t remember the last time something happened but rather the last time they remembered it. Each recollection will be skewed by the person’s biases and perspectives. Gas Lighting occurs thanks to the Availability Heuristic, amongst others.