The brain has different strategies to make some decisions faster than others . This is known as the availability heuristic, a mental shortcut that helps you perform quick, but sometimes incorrect, evaluations. There are all kinds of mental shortcuts, but a common one is trusting the information that comes to mind quickly. This is known as availability. If you can quickly think of several examples of something that is happening, you will think it is more common.
How does it work
When you try to make decisions, it will always come up in your mind in the form of thoughts, situations or related things. The result is that you could judge those events as more likely than others. You will give more credibility to the information that comes to your head and you will think that things like this are more likely to happen in the future.
If you are seeing on the news that there have been robberies in the area where you live you will think that it is likely to happen in your neighborhood. This may make you want to move so you don’t get robbed. Sometimes when you are faced with an option you may lack the time and resources to investigate further and what you think is enough to make a decision.
When you need to make an immediate decision is when you walk in. At stake is the availability heuristic because you think faster to reach a conclusion sooner.
The availability heuristic also leads to incorrect decisions
As with any other heuristic, the availability heuristic can be useful sometimes, and sometimes … not so, because it can give problems and errors. For example, if you see on the news several train accidents or kidnapping of children in your city, you will think that they are events that happen very often and you may feel fear , a fear that is absolutely unnecessary.
The availability heuristic occurs unconsciously, that is, your mind thinks that if you have something in your head, it must be important. For example, if you drive with your car and see a car accident on the road, you will think that the chances of suffering an accident are also very high. The more you think about it, the more importance your mind will give it and the more you will believe that it is more likely to happen. You may think that an event is more common than it really is just because you have it in your head.
The media can sometimes open news for several days about the same news and this can make people believe that what happens is something that could happen to them too.
Examples to understand it better
To better understand the availability heuristic, it is best to consider some examples, because it is more than likely that this has happened to you at some point in your life.
After watching the news about people being unemployed, you will fear that perhaps you, too, are in danger of being fired. You start at night not sleeping well, worried about being fired. A thought that you would not have if you had not seen that news on television .
After seeing several cases of people dying of cancer around you, you will be scared thinking that maybe you could also die of cancer because of your eating habits or because you smoke and even if you want to stop doing it, you can’t.
After reading an article about the people who have won the lottery, you think that you too could be that lucky and you spend more money in the lottery than you would at other times if you had not seen that article.
The availability heuristic plays an important role in the way we make decisions and act on information in the world around us. The availability heuristic can be a useful tool , but it is also important to remember that it can sometimes lead to incorrect evaluations.
Just because something sticks out in your memory doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more common, so it can be helpful to have a number of decision-making tools and strategies, as well as just thinking about it .