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Availability Heuristic

Definition

The availability heuristic describes a mental strategy in which people judge probability, frequency, or extremity based on the ease with which and the amount of information that can be brought to mind. For example, people may judge easily imaginable risks such as terrorist attacks or airplane crashes as more likely than the less easily imaginable (but objectively more likely) risks of influenza or automobile accidents.

Context, Consequences, and Causes

Availability was one of three judgmental heuristics (or mental shortcuts), along with representativeness and anchoring and adjustment, that Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman hypothesized people adopt to simplify complex judgments. Because information about events that are more likely, frequent, or extreme is typically more available than information about events that are less likely, frequent, or extreme, the ...

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