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Pschology Module 27: Thinking, Language and Intelligence The Availability Heuristic Essay

Availability Heuristic: A mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that comes to mind. When you are trying to make a decision, a number of related events or situations might immediately spring to the forefront of your thoughts. As a result, you might judge that those events are more frequent and possible than others. You give greater trust to this information and tend to overestimate the probability and likelihood of similar things happening in the future. Examples

After seeing news reports about people losing their jobs, you might start to believe that you are in danger of being laid-off. You start lying awake in bed each night worrying that you are about to be fired. After seeing several television programs on shark attacks, you start to think that such incidences are relatively common. When you go on vacation, you refuse to swim in the ocean because you believe the probability of a shark attack is high. After reading an article about lottery winners, you start to overestimate your own likelihood of winning the jackpot. You start spending more money than you should each week on lottery tickets.

Availability heuristic influences our decisionns and judgments by remembering something that shapes our impression to make these decisions and lead us astray in our judgments that makes information pop into our minds. Availability heuristic leads us to fear the wrong things and we shouldn’t always fear everything.

Four influences that feed fear and cause us to ignore higher risks 1. We fear what our ancestral history has prepared us to fear (Confinement and heights, and therefore flying)
2. We fear what we cannot control (We can control a car by driving but not a plane) 3. We fear what is immediate (Teens are indifferent to smoking’s toxicity because they live more for the present than the distant future) 4. We fear what is most readily available in memory (Availability Heuristic) (Scary, vivid images like 9/11 cause our judgments of risk, we remember and
fear natural disasters like hurricanes tornados and earthquakes that kill people instantly)

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