It’s a typical Sunday morning and you open the newspaper to read about the current affairs around the world. Instead, you come across stories about people losing their jobs to the pandemic. Additionally, stories of increasing crime-rates and child abduction give you goose-pimples. You begin to believe that such tragedies are quite common and you’re likely to worry about your family and job security.

These examples of availability heuristic tell us how humans tend to jump to conclusions because of readily available information. Wondering how the availability heuristic psychology works? Read on to explore the concept in greater detail.


Unpacking The Meaning Of Availability Heuristic

As humans, we have a tendency to simplify information and rely on mental shortcuts. Availability heuristic refers to the strategy we use to make judgments about the likelihood of an event, depending on how easily an example or situation comes to mind. In other words, we use the information that comes readily to our minds, which we use to make decisions about the future.

The term ‘availability heuristic’ was first coined in 1973. Two Nobel Prize-winning psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman suggested that the availability heuristic operates under the principle of “if you can think of it, it must be important”. We believe things that readily come to mind, even if they aren’t accurate representations of the real world.


Why Challenge Availability Heuristic?

Imagine that you have a team of two individuals. Both of them are highly efficient and work really hard to drive business goals. You are considering them for a promotion but aren’t sure about the right person. In the process, you suddenly recall an event where one of them missed a project deadline because of a personal emergency. You decide to promote the other employee.

Singular moments like these have the power to influence your critical thinking and decision-making to a great extent. You’re blinded by the availability heuristic, also known as availability bias. We need to be cautious of this bias because it challenges our ability to accurately judge the probability of events and leads us to incorrect conclusions. We make thousands of decisions every day and factors like vivid recollections, emotional reactions and trending news stories reduce objectivity and logic.


How To Challenge Availability Heuristic

Availability bias can lead you to take potentially destructive workplace decisions. Here are some useful ways in which you can tackle your availability heuristic and lead yourself as well as your team to comprehensive and critical thinking.

  1. The Power Of Diversity

At its core, the availability heuristic is just laziness. To avoid jumping to conclusions, try expanding your team and include people who bring different ideas to the table. The more someone challenges your thoughts, the more it will minimize your bias. Keep an open mind and steer away from echo chambers, where people have similar ideas and visions.

  1. Look At The Other Side

Always consider the other side of things before making a decision. For example, you see the news of small businesses shutting shop as the COVID-19 pandemic snowballs. As a small business enterprise, you don’t need to necessarily shut down operations. Look at the bigger picture and see if you have enough funds and support to sustain yourself and survive the pandemic.

  1. Be A Curious Cat

For better management of availability bias, push yourself to think harder. Set personal standards for thinking critically. Don’t take anything at face value and be suspicious of the information you have. There should be rigor, breadth and depth to the information that you’re dealing with. Do your homework (thorough research) for better analysis.

System 1 And System 2 Thinking

Kahneman and Tversky also highlighted the importance of System 1 and System 2 thinking framework for challenging the availability heuristic. System 1 refers to that part of the brain that is fast and automatic while System 2 refers to the mental network that is engaged in deliberate decision-making. Availability bias works on System 1, which is why decisions are skewed. To overcome cognitive biases, we need to activate System 2, by intentionally seeking out the mistakes that have clouded our decisions.

Critical thinking will help you create a more deliberate strategy to tackle the availability heuristic. Harappa Education’s Thinking Critically course is equipped with frameworks that will help you analyze and evaluate situations more effectively. The CAFE Framework in particular will help you ask relevant questions and get to the bottom of things before you jump to conclusions. Make smart and sound decisions with Harappa’s courses today!

Explore topics such as What is HeuristicRepresentativeness Heuristic & Systems of Thinking from Harappa Diaries to think clearly and rationally.

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