We consider the first notion valid

21.07.2020

Often, we consider the first idea that comes to mind to be valid without actually analyzing it, let alone questioning it. This bias is to blame for making inappropriate decisions and giving greater value to everything that has recently been experienced.

Availability bias largely explains why advertising works. When we have to buy a product, on average, the brand that we have seen on television or on social networks comes to mind - in fact, there are brands so popular that they have become generic. People are not always aware of how, at times, we act and respond by very simple heuristics and, above all, in response to what comes to mind first.

For example, if you ask us which is the most poisonous animal in the world, chances are we are thinking of snakes, spiders, or the classic puffer fish. We even consider valid that information stored in the brain, which is transmitted by word of mouth, without being critical of it. In fact, the sea wasp jellyfish is the most deadly creature today.

On the other hand, there is something important that we must consider. This bias is to blame for many of the distortions that we carry with us unconsciously and that cloud reality. The fear of flying in airplanes is more common than the fear of driving, when it is much more likely to have a traffic accident with tragic consequences than an airplane accident.

There are people who buy lottery every day thinking that sooner or later it will be their turn. When the probability of hitting can be 1 for every 15 million. All of us, in some way, give more value to that information that is most accessible to memory, that which we assume to be the most prototypical.

Availability bias: what does it consist of?

You and your partner are talking about which would be the best destination to go on vacation. Suddenly a proposal arises, a paradisiacal and almost perfect place. Now, it is not long until you remember a news you read about that place, one about the number of thefts that take place in that city. You comment on it and suggest that it is better to discard that city.

With this small example, we see how the mind works by using very rudimentary mental shortcuts to make decisions . It does so based on the information that is most available, wherever it comes from. In this case, we conclude that it is better to discard this place for a read article. We no longer shuffle more data or more variables for or against. The matter is settled.

The field of human judgment and the way we take sides with one option or another is an area that has always interested psychology. However, it was not until 1970 that Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman labeled what they defined as availability heuristics . They are precisely those situations in which, when evaluating a topic, we always do it using what is most accessible in our mind. To understand it better, let's dig a little deeper.

We give more value to the most recent information with the greatest emotional impact

The human mind will always significantly retain the latest information. Likewise, we also tend to remember everything that has a high emotional component associated with it . They know this well in the world of marketing and advertising, which is why they always try to make use of this factor, seeking to arouse emotions in consumers.

For example, if we are going to buy toilet paper, it is common for a certain brand to come to mind that uses adorable golden retrievers as images . Advertising makes us go to the supermarket feeling that certain products are familiar to us and we choose them almost without knowing why .

Availability bias causes us to make responses by making use of what is always "at hand" in our recent and emotional memory.

The power of experience in availability bias

There is a third factor on availability bias that is important to consider. Having lived certain experiences on your own will also make us remember them better and be more available in the mind.

For example, if someone asks us what is the worst thing a person can experience, we can say that " going through a depression " because it is what we have just experienced. For others it will be the early loss of a parent because it is their turn. We don't always consider other options because we simply don't know about them and the brain doesn't consider them.

Goal: save time and mental energy

Scott Plous , a social psychologist and professor of psychology in the Department of Psychology at Wesleyan University, is one of the people who has studied the availability heuristic the most. In his work T he availability heuristic he explains the following:

"The more accessible an event is, the more frequent and likely it will appear; the more vivid the information, the more convincing and easy to remember it will be, and the more obvious something becomes, the more causal it will appear.

If the mind works under these schemes it is basically due to a fact. Throughout our evolution, the brain has always sought that we can actively emit responses and behaviors. The goal is to save time and energy: you have to optimize mental work and act quickly to survive and adapt to the environment.

What does this mean? It implies that the availability heuristic will always be that shortcut that helps us to value options in an agile way, regardless of whether that information is valid. We give truth to facts as if they were the only ones existing in the world and in this way, we simplify our reality to be able to act in an accelerated way.

Sometimes it is useful. However, it is always appropriate to make a little effort and keep in mind that our mind is a universe of biases . Taking it into account and relativizing some of our thoughts, giving us time and calm, can be very beneficial to us. Let's shuffle that option.

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