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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)
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
EXAMPLE: AVAILABILITY BIAS
Which is more likely
cause of death in
US?

killed by falling
airplane parts?

shark attack
IMPLICATIONS: WHAT MORE PROBABLE
(PLAUSIBLE)
Media coverage (crime rate )

Events easy to image (terrorist attack)

Events/outcome the are difficult to visualize
(interaction effects)
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?
WHAT IF EVENT IS EXTREMELY NEGATIVE?
DENIAL
nuclear war

AIDS

Environmental disasters

Global warming
rape of Indian Ocean


VIVIDNESS
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)
LEGAL SIGNIFICANCE?
(DURING JURY DELIBERATIONS?)
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.
WHY? DELAYED EFFECT

Vivid information easier to remember

Easier to retrieve from memory

Vivid events may be judged more probable

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
HOW TO USE THESE INSIGHTS?
Publicize explicit but non-obvious
comparisons:

More people will die from stomach cancer
than from car accidents