Availability Heuristic

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  • A mental shortcut in behavioral decision making through which judgments are based on information that is most easily brought to mind. It can thus be considered a part of informal reasoning. Like most heuristics, this shortcut tends to work well in most cases. It can, however, lead to biased judgment, especially when mental availability does not reflect actual frequency. For example, news reports on airplane accidents are mentally more available than car accidents, though car accidents happen with considerably greater frequency. For more information, see Gigerenzer, Todd, and the ABC Research Group (1999).

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