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Availability Heuristic

What we can recall often is crucial and common.

What is it?

When we are affected by Availability Heuristic, we tend to believe that what comes to our minds most easily reflects reality more accurately. We tend to operate on the principle that "if you can think of it, it must be important."

What impact does it have on our decisions and actions?

Some events tend to stand out in our minds more than others. For example, excessive media coverage of an event can make us believe that such events are more common than they are. We tend to overestimate the likelihood of such events affecting us. Availability Heuristic forces us to make problematic conclusions about our life and profession, prioritising memorability and nearness over accuracy. It challenges our ability to evaluate the probability of future events since the memories we draw from to decide something might not be accurate. Political propagandists and manipulative advertisers misuse Availability Heuristic to push us to buy into their narratives.

How can we teach our students to avoid it?

We must teach our students to use data to make decisions. Our students will be able to make better judgments based on patterns and trends than outlier events if they have an understanding of statistics. We must teach them to consider overall trends while making a decision instead of giving substantial weightage to an unusual one-off event, like a grave mistake or a notable success. If we teach our students to practise data-driven reflective thinking and other metacognitive strategies, it will help them make better decisions in life.


This post is from a #TeachwithInnerkern series.

Main Post: How can we help our students learn to avoid Cognitive Biases?

Previous Post: Attentional Bias

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