the availability heuristic n.
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The Availability Heuristic

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  1. The Availability Heuristic “assess the frequency of a class or the probability of an event by the ease with which instances or occurrences can be brought to mind” (T&K, 74: 1127)

  2. “Availability heuristic” • Events that are easy to imaging • “spring to mind” • are judged to be more frequent • I.e.., highly vivid, • emotional • can be imagined

  3. Example: Availability bias • Which is more likely cause of death in US? • killed by falling airplane parts? • shark attack

  4. Implications: What more probable (plausible) • Media coverage (crime rate ) • Events easy to image (terrorist attack) • Events/outcome the are difficult to visualize • (interaction effects)

  5. Are easily imagined events judged to be more probable? • Carroll (1978) • 1976 election • Imagine Carter wins • or • Imagine Ford wins • …predict “Who is likely to win?”

  6. What if event is extremely negative? • DENIAL • nuclear war • AIDS • Environmental disasters • Global “warming • “rape of Indian Ocean”

  7. how concrete or imaginable something is visuals TV “face-to-face” communications What course to take? Recommend Not Condition Face-to face 4.73 .50 No eval- uation 3.33 1.39 Base rate 4.11 .94 (Borgida & Nisbett, 1977) VIVIDNESS

  8. Pallid condition: “On his way out the door, Sanders (the defendant) staggered against a serving table, knocking a bowl to the floor” Vivid version: “On his way out the door, Sanders staggered against a serving table, knocking a bowl of guacamole dip to the floor and splattering guacamole on the white shag carpet.” Legal Significance?(during jury deliberations?)

  9. Why? Delayed effect • Vivid information easier to remember • Easier to retrieve from memory • “Vivid events may be judged more probable”

  10. TYPE of INFORMATION • Most likely to be remembers……> • more persuasive (delayed effect) • Case histories (versus stat abstract) • Video (versus written oral • presentations) • Personal experience • “VALID, RELIABLE, TIMELY”

  11. How to use these insights? • Publicize explicit but non-obvious comparisons: • “More people will die from stomach cancer than from car accidents”