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Availabilityheuristic
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Theavailabilityheuristicisamentalshortcutthatreliesonimmediateexamplesthatcometoagiven
person'smindwhenevaluatingaspecifictopic,concept,methodordecision.Theavailabilityheuristic
operatesonthenotionthatifsomethingcanberecalled,itmustbeimportant,oratleastmoreimportant
thanalternativesolutionswhicharenotasreadilyrecalled.[1]Subsequently,undertheavailabilityheuristic
peopletendtoheavilyweightheirjudgmentstowardmorerecentinformation,makingnewopinionsbiased
towardthatlatestnews.[2]
Theavailabilityofconsequencesassociatedwithanactionispositivelyrelatedtoperceptionsofthe
magnitudeoftheconsequencesofthataction.Inotherwords,theeasieritistorecalltheconsequencesof
somethingthegreaterthoseconsequencesareoftenperceivedtobe.Mostnotably,peopleoftenrelyonthe
contentoftheirrecallifitsimplicationsarenotcalledintoquestionbythedifficultythattheyexperiencein
bringingtherelevantmaterialtomind.[3]

Contents
1 Overviewandhistory
2 Research
3 Explanations
4 Applications
4.1 Media
4.2 Health
4.3 Businessandeconomy
4.4 Education
4.5 Criminaljustice
4.6 Perceivedrisk
4.7 Vividnesseffects
4.8 Judgingfrequencyandprobability
5 Critiques
5.1 Easeofrecallasacritique
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5.2 Alternativeexplanations
6 Seealso
7 References
8 Externallinks

Overviewandhistory
PriortotheworkofKahnemanandTversky,thepredominantviewinthefieldofhumanjudgmentwasthat
humansarerationalactors.However,inthelate1960sandearly1970sAmosTverskyandDaniel
Kahnemanbeganworkonaseriesofpapersexaminingheuristicandbiasesusedinjudgmentunder
uncertainty.Theyexplainedthatjudgmentunderuncertaintyoftenreliesonalimitednumberofsimplifying
heuristicsratherthanextensivealgorithmicprocessing.Soonthisideaspreadbeyondacademicpsychology,
intolaw,medicine,andpoliticalscience.Thisresearchquestionedthedescriptiveadequacyofidealized
modelsofjudgment,andofferedinsightsintothecognitiveprocessesthatexplainedhumanerrorwithout
invokingmotivatedirrationality.[4]Onesimplifyingstrategypeoplemayrelyonisthetendencytomakea
judgmentaboutthefrequencyofaneventbasedonhowmanysimilarinstancesarebroughttomind.In
1973,AmosTverskyandDanielKahnemanfirststudiedthisphenomenonandlabeleditthe"availability
heuristic".Anavailabilityheuristicisamentalshortcutthatreliesonimmediateexamplesthatcometoa
givenperson'smindwhenevaluatingaspecifictopic,concept,methodordecision.Asfollows,peopletend
touseareadilyavailablefacettobasetheirbeliefsaboutacomparablydistantconcept.Therehasbeen
muchresearchdonewiththisheuristic,butstudiesontheissuearestillquestionablewithregardtothe
underlyingprocess.Studiesillustratethatmanipulationsintendedtoincreasethesubjectiveexperienceof
easeofrecallarealsolikelytoaffecttheamountofrecall.Furthermorethismakesitdifficulttodetermine
iftheobtainedestimatesoffrequency,likelihood,ortypicalityarebasedonparticipantsphenomenal
experiencesoronabiasedsampleofrecalledinformation.[4]
However,sometextbookshavechosenthelatterinterpretationintroducingtheavailabilityheuristicas
onesjudgmentsarealwaysbasedonwhatcomestomind."Forexampleifapersonisaskedwhetherthere
aremorewordsintheEnglishLanguagethatbeginwithatork,thepersonwillprobablybeabletothinkof
morewordsthatbeginwiththelettert,concludingthattismorefrequentthank.[5]

Research
Chapman(1967)describedabiasinthejudgmentofthefrequencywithwhichtwoeventscooccur.This
demonstrationshowedthatthecooccurrenceofpairedstimuliresultedinparticipantsoverestimatingthe
frequencyofthepairings.[6]Totestthisidea,participantsweregiveninformationaboutseveralhypothetical
mentalpatients.Thedataforeachpatientconsistedofaclinicaldiagnosisandadrawingmadebythe
patient.Later,participantsestimatedthefrequencywithwhicheachdiagnosishadbeenaccompaniedby
variousfeaturesofthedrawing.Thesubjectsvastlyoverestimatedthefrequencyofthiscooccurrence(such
assuspiciousnessandpeculiareyes).Thiseffectwaslabeledtheillusorycorrelation.Tverskyand
Kahnemansuggestedthatavailabilityprovidesanaturalaccountfortheillusorycorrelationeffect.The
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strengthoftheassociationbetweentwoeventscouldprovidethebasisforthejudgmentofhowfrequently
thetwoeventscooccur.Whentheassociationisstrong,itbecomesmorelikelytoconcludethattheevents
havebeenpairedfrequently.Strongassociationswillbethoughtofashavingoccurredtogether
frequently.[7]
InTversky&Kahneman'sfirstexaminationofavailabilityheuristics,subjectswereasked,"Ifarandom
wordistakenfromanEnglishtext,isitmorelikelythatthewordstartswithaK,orthatKisthethird
letter?"TheyarguethatEnglishspeakingpeoplewouldimmediatelythinkofmanywordsthatbeginwith
theletter"K"(kangaroo,kitchen,kale),butthatitwouldtakeamoreconcentratedefforttothinkofany
wordsinwhich"K"isthethirdletter(acknowledge,ask).Resultsindicatedthatparticipantsoverestimated
thenumberofwordsthatbeganwiththeletter"K"andunderestimatedthenumberofwordsthathad"K"as
thethirdletter.TverskyandKahnemanconcludedthatpeopleanswerquestionslikethesebycomparingthe
availabilityofthetwocategoriesandassessinghoweasilytheycanrecalltheseinstances.Inotherwords,it
iseasiertothinkofwordsthatbeginwith"K",morethanwordswith"K"asthethirdletter.Thus,people
judgewordsbeginningwitha"K"tobeamorecommonoccurrence.Inreality,however,atypicaltext
containstwiceasmanywordsthathave"K"asthethirdletterthan"K"asthefirstletter.Therearethree
timesmorewordswith"K"inthethirdpositionthanwordsthatbeginwith"K".[7]
InTverskyandKahnemansseminalpaper,theyincludefindingsfromseveralotherstudies,whichalso
showsupportfortheavailabilityheuristic.Apartfromtheirfindingsinthe"K"study,theyalsofound:
Whenparticipantswereshowntwovisualstructuresandaskedtopickthestructurethathadmorepaths,
participantssawmorepathsinthestructurethathadmoreobviousavailablepaths.Inthestructurethat
participantschose,thereweremorecolumnsandshorterobviouspaths,makingitmoreavailabletothem.
Whenparticipantswereaskedtocompletetasksinvolvingestimation,theywouldoftenunderestimatethe
endresult.Participantswerebasingtheirfinalestimationoffofaquickfirstimpressionoftheproblem.
Participantsparticularlystruggledwhentheproblemsconsistedofmultiplesteps.Thisoccurredbecause
participantswerebasingtheirestimationonaninitialimpression.Participantsfailedtoaccountforthehigh
rateofgrowthinthelaterstepsduetotheimpressiontheyformedintheinitialsteps.Thiswasshownagain
inataskthataskedparticipantstoestimatetheanswertoamultiplicationtask,inwhichthenumberswere
presentedaseither1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8or8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1.Participantswhowerepresentedtheequation
withthelargernumbersfirst(8x7x6...),estimatedasignificantlyhigherresultthanparticipantswiththe
lowernumbersfirst(1x2x3...).Participantsweregivenashortamountoftimetomaketheestimation,thus
participantsbasedtheirestimatesoffofwhatwaseasilyavailable,whichinthiscasewasthefirstfew
numbersinthesequence.[7]

Explanations
Manyresearchershaveattemptedtoidentifythepsychologicalprocesswhichcreatetheavailability
heuristic.
TverskyandKahnemanarguethatthenumberofexamplesrecalledfrommemoryisusedtoinferthe
frequencywithwhichsuchinstancesoccur.Inanexperimenttotestthisexplanation,participantslistenedto
listsofnamescontainingeither19famouswomenand20lessfamousmenor19famousmenand20less
famouswomen.Subsequently,someparticipantswereaskedtorecallasmanynamesaspossiblewhereas
otherswereaskedtoestimatewhethermaleorfemalenamesweremorefrequentonthelist.Thenamesof
thefamouscelebritieswererecalledmorefrequentlycomparedtothoseofthelessfamouscelebrities.The
majorityoftheparticipantsincorrectlyjudgedthatthegenderassociatedwithmorefamousnameshadbeen
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presentedmoreoftenthanthegenderassociatedwithlessfamousnames.TverskyandKahnemanarguethat
althoughtheavailabilityheuristicisaneffectivestrategyinmanysituations,whenjudgingprobabilityuse
ofthisheuristiccanleadtopredictablepatternsoferrors.[7]
Schwarzandhiscolleagues,ontheotherhand,proposedtheeaseofretrievalexplanation,inwhichisthe
easewithwhichexamplescometomind,notthenumberofexamples,isusedtoinferthefrequencyofa
givenclass.InastudybySchwarzandcolleaguestotesttheirexplanation,participantswereaskedtorecall
eithersixortwelveexamplesoftheirassertiveorveryunassertivebehavior.Participantswerelateraskedto
ratetheirownassertiveness.Pretestinghadindicatedthatalthoughmostparticipantswerecapableof
generatingtwelveexamples,thiswasadifficulttask.Theresultsindicatedthatparticipantsrated
themselvesasmoreassertiveafterdescribingsixexamplesofassertivecomparedwithunassertivebehavior
condition,butratedthemselvesaslessassertiveafterdescribingtwelveexamplesofassertivecompared
withunassertivebehaviorcondition.Thestudyreflectedthattheextenttowhichrecalledcontentimpacted
judgmentwasdeterminedbytheeasewithwhichthecontentcouldbebroughttomind(itwaseasierto
recall6examplesthan12),ratherthantheamountofcontentbroughttomind.[3]
ResearchbyVaugh(1999)lookedattheeffectsofuncertaintyontheuseoftheavailabilityheuristic.
Collegestudentswereaskedtolisteitherthreeoreightdifferentstudymethodstheycoulduseinorderto
getanAontheirfinalexams.Theresearchersalsomanipulatedthetimeduringthesemestertheywould
askthestudentstocompletethequestionnaire.Approximatelyhalfoftheparticipantswereaskedfortheir
studymethodsduringthethirdweekofclasses,andtheotherhalfwereaskedonlastdayofclasses.Next,
participantswereaskedtoratehowlikelytheywouldbetogetanAintheireasiestandhardestclasses.
Participantswerethenaskedtorankthedifficultytheyexperiencedinrecallingtheexamplestheyhad
previouslylisted.Theresearchershypothesizedthatstudentswouldusetheavailabilityheuristic,basedon
thenumberofstudymethodstheylisted,topredicttheirgradeonlywhenaskedatthebeginningofthe
semesterandabouttheirhardestfinal.Studentswerenotexpectedtousetheavailabilityheuristictopredict
theirgradeattheendofthesemesterorabouttheireasiestfinal.Theresearcherspredictedthisuseof
availabilityheuristicbecauseparticipantswouldbeuncertainabouttheirperformancethroughoutthe
semester.Theresultsindicatedthatstudentsusedtheavailabilityheuristic,basedontheeaseofrecallofthe
studymethodstheylisted,topredicttheirperformancewhenaskedatthebeginningofthesemesterand
abouttheirhardestfinal.Ifthestudentlistedonlythreestudymethods,theypredictedahighergradeatthe
endofthesemesteronlyontheirhardestfinal.Ifstudentslistedeightstudymethods,theyhadahardertime
recallingthemethodsandthuspredictedalowerfinalgradeontheirhardestfinal.Theresultswerenotseen
intheeasyfinalconditionbecausethestudentswerecertaintheywouldgetanA,regardlessofstudy
method.Theresultssupportedthishypothesisandgaveevidencetothefactthatlevelsofuncertaintyaffect
theuseoftheavailabilityheuristic.[8]

Applications
Media
Afterseeingnewsstoriesaboutchildabductions,peoplemayjudgethatthelikelihoodofthiseventis
greater.Mediacoveragecanhelpfuelaperson'sexamplebiaswithwidespreadandextensivecoverageof
unusualevents,suchashomicideorairlineaccidents,andlesscoverageofmoreroutine,lesssensational
events,suchascommondiseasesorcaraccidents.Forexample,whenaskedtoratetheprobabilityofa
varietyofcausesofdeath,peopletendtorate"newsworthy"eventsasmorelikelybecausetheycanmore
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readilyrecallanexamplefrommemory.Moreover,unusualandvivideventslikehomicides,sharkattacks,
orlightningaremoreoftenreportedinmassmediathancommonandunsensationalcausesofdeathlike
commondiseases.[9]
Forexample,manypeoplethinkthatthelikelihoodofdyingfromsharkattacksisgreaterthanthatofdying
frombeinghitbyfallingairplaneparts,whenmorepeopleactuallydiefromfallingairplaneparts.Whena
sharkattackoccurs,thedeathsarewidelyreportedinthemediawhereasdeathsasaresultofbeinghitby
fallingairplanepartsarerarelyreportedinthemedia.[10]
Ina2010studyexploringhowvividtelevisionportrayalsareusedwhenformingsocialrealityjudgments,
peoplewatchingvividviolentmediagavehigherestimatesoftheprevalenceofcrimeandpolice
immoralityintherealworldthanthosenotexposedtovividtelevision.Theseresultssuggestthattelevision
violencedoesinfacthaveadirectcausalimpactonparticipants'socialrealitybeliefs.Repeatedexposureto
vividviolenceleadstoanincreaseinpeople'sriskestimatesabouttheprevalenceofcrimeandviolencein
therealworld.[11]Countertothesefindings,researchersfromasimilarstudyarguedthattheseeffectsmay
beduetoeffectsofnewinformation.Researcherstestedthenewinformationeffectbyshowingmovies
depictingdramaticriskeventsandmeasuringtheirriskassessmentafterthefilm.Contrarytoprevious
research,therewerenoeffectsonriskperceptionduetoexposuretodramaticmovies.[12]

Health
ResearchersexaminedtheroleofcognitiveheuristicsintheAIDSriskassessmentprocess.331physicians
reportedworryaboutonthejobHIVexposure,andexperiencewithpatientswhohaveHIV.Byanalyzing
answerstoquestionnaireshandedout,researchersconcludedAvailabilityofAIDSinformationdidnot
relatestronglytoperceivedrisk.[13]
Participantsina1992studyreadcasedescriptionsofhypotheticalpatientswhovariedontheirsexand
sexualpreference.Thesehypotheticalpatientsshowedsymptomsoftwodifferentdiseases.Participants
wereinstructedtoindicatewhichdiseasetheythoughtthepatienthadandthentheyratedpatient
responsibilityandinteractionaldesirability.Consistentwiththeavailabilityheuristic,eitherthemore
common(influenza)orthemorepublicized(AIDS)diseasewaschosen.[14]

Businessandeconomy
Onestudysoughttoanalyzetheroleoftheavailabilityheuristicinfinancialmarkets.Researchersdefined
andtestedtwoaspectsoftheavailabilityheuristic:[15]
OutcomeAvailabilityavailabilityofpositiveandnegativeinvestmentoutcomes,and
RiskAvailabilityavailabilityoffinancialrisk[15]Ondaysofsubstantialstockmarketmoves,abnormal
stockpricereactionstoupgradesareweaker,thanthosetodowngrades.Theseavailabilityeffectsarestill
significantevenaftercontrollingforeventspecificandcompanyspecificfactors.[15]
Similarly,researchhaspointedoutthatundertheavailabilityheuristic,humansarenotreliablebecause
theyassessprobabilitiesbygivingmoreweighttocurrentoreasilyrecalledinformationinsteadof
processingallrelevantinformation.Sinceinformationregardingthecurrentstateoftheeconomyisreadily
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available,researchersattemptedtoexposethepropertiesofbusinesscyclestopredicttheavailabilitybiasin
analysts'growthforecasts.Theyshowedtheavailabilityheuristictoplayaroleinanalysisofforecastsand
influenceinvestmentsbecauseofthis.[16]
Ineffect,investorsareusingavailabilityheuristictomakedecisionsandsubsequently,maybeobstructing
theirowninvestmentsuccess.Aninvestor'slingeringperceptionsofadiremarketenvironmentmaybe
causingthemtoviewinvestmentopportunitiesthroughanoverlynegativelens,makingitlessappealingto
considertakingoninvestmentrisk,nomatterhowsmallthereturnsonperceived"safe"investments.To
illustrate,FranklinTempleton'sannualGlobalInvestorSentimentSurvey1askedindividualshowthey
believedtheS&P500Indexperformedin2009,2010and2011.66percentofrespondentsstatedthatthey
believedthemarketwaseitherflatordownin2009,48percentsaidthesameabout2010and53percent
alsosaidthesameabout2011.Inreality,theS&P500saw26.5percentannualreturnsin2009,15.1
percentannualreturnsin2010and2.1percentannualreturnsin2011,meaninglingeringperceptionsbased
ondramatic,painfuleventsareimpactingdecisionmakingevenwhenthoseeventsareover.[17]
Additionally,astudybyHayiborandWasieleskifoundthattheavailabilityofotherswhobelievethata
particularactismorallyacceptableispositivelyrelatedtoothers'perceptionsofthemoralityofthatact.
Thissuggeststhatavailabilityheuristicalsohasaneffectonethicaldecisionmakingandethicalbehaviorin
organizations.[18]

Education
AstudydonebyCraigR.Foxprovidesanexampleofhowavailabilityheuristicscanworkinthe
classroom.Inthisstudy,Foxtestswhetherdifficultyofrecallinfluencesjudgment,specificallywithcourse
evaluationsamongcollegestudents.Inhisstudyhehadtwogroupscompleteacourseevaluationform.He
askedthefirstgrouptowritetworecommendedimprovementsforthecourse(arelativelyeasytask)and
thenwritetwopositivesabouttheclass.Thesecondgroupwasaskedtowritetensuggestionswherethe
professorcouldimprove(arelativelydifficulttask)andthenwritetwopositivecommentsaboutthecourse.
Attheendoftheevaluationbothgroupswereaskedtoratethecourseonascalefromonetoseven.The
resultsshowedthatstudentsaskedtowritetensuggestions(difficulttask)ratedthecourselessharshly
becauseitwasmoredifficultforthemtorecalltheinformation.Studentsaskedtodotheeasierevaluation
withonlytwocomplaintshadlessdifficultyintermsofavailabilityofinformation,sotheyratedthecourse
moreharshly.[19]

Criminaljustice
Themediausuallyfocusesonviolentorextremecases,whicharemorereadilyavailableinthepublic's
mind.Thismaycomeintoplaywhenitistimeforthejudicialsystemtoevaluateanddeterminetheproper
punishmentforacrime.Inonestudy,respondentsratedhowmuchtheyagreedwithhypotheticallawsand
policiessuchas"Wouldyousupportalawthatrequiredalloffendersconvictedofunarmedmuggingsto
serveaminimumprisontermoftwoyears?"Participantsthenreadcasesandratedeachcaseonseveral
questionsaboutpunishment.Ashypothesized,respondentsrecalledmoreeasilyfromlongtermmemory
storiesthatcontainsevereharm,whichseemedtoinfluencetheirsentencingchoicestomakethempushfor
harsherpunishments.Thiscanbeeliminatedbyaddinghighconcreteorhighcontextuallydistinctdetails
intothecrimestoriesaboutlesssevereinjuries.[20]

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Asimilarstudyaskedjurorsandcollegestudentstochoosesentencesonfourseverecriminalcasesin
whichprisonwasapossiblebutnotaninevitablesentencingoutcome.Respondentsansweringquestions
aboutcourtperformanceonapublicopinionformulatedapictureofwhatthecourtsdoandthenevaluated
theappropriatenessofthatbehavior.Respondentsrecalledfrompublicinformationaboutcrimeand
sentencing.Thistypeofinformationisincompletebecausethenewsmediapresentahighlyselectiveand
nonrepresentativeselectionofcrime,focusingontheviolentandextreme,ratherthantheordinary.This
makesmostpeoplethinkthatjudgesaretoolenient.But,whenaskedtochoosethepunishments,the
sentencesgivenbystudentswereequaltoorlessseverethanthosegivenbyjudges.Inotherwords,the
availabilityheuristicmadepeoplebelievethatjudgesandjurorsweretoolenientinthecourtroom,butthe
participantsgavesimilarsentenceswhenplacedinthepositionofthejudge,suggestingthattheinformation
theyrecalledwasnotcorrect.[21]
Researchersin1989predictedthatmockjurorswouldrateawitnesstobemoredeceptiveifthewitness
testifiedtruthfullybeforelyingthanwhenthewitnesswascaughtlyingfirstbeforetellingthetruth.Ifthe
availabilityheuristicplayedaroleinthis,lyingsecondwouldremaininjurors'minds(sinceitwasmore
recent)andtheywouldmostlikelyrememberthewitnesslyingoverthetruthfulness.Totestthehypothesis,
312universitystudentsplayedtherolesofmockjurorsandwatchedavideotapeofawitnesspresenting
testimonyduringatrial.Resultsconfirmedthehypothesis,asmockjurorsweremostinfluencedbythe
mostrecentact.[22]

Perceivedrisk
Previousstudieshaveindicatedthatexplainingahypotheticaleventmakestheeventseemmorelikely
throughthecreationofcausalconnections.However,sucheffectscouldarisethroughtheuseofthe
availabilityheuristicthatis,subjectivelikelihoodisincreasedbyaneventbecomingeasiertoimagine.[23]

Vividnesseffects
Twostudieswith108undergraduatesinvestigatedvividinformationanditsimpactonsocialjudgmentand
theavailabilityheuristicanditsroleinmediatingvividnesseffects.InStudy1,Subjectslistenedtoatape
recordingthatdescribedawomanwholivedwithher7yroldson.Subjectsthenheardargumentsaboutthe
woman'sfitnessasaparentandwereaskedtodrawtheirownconclusionsregardingherfitnessorunfitness.
Concreteandcolorfullanguagewasfoundtoinfluencejudgmentsaboutthewoman'sfitnessasamother.In
study2,aseriesofmaleandfemalenameswaspresentedtosubjectsforeachname,subjectsweretoldthe
universityaffiliationoftheindividual(YaleorStanford).Whensomenameswerepresented,subjectswere
simultaneouslyshownaphotographthatpurportedlyportrayedthenamedindividual.Subsequently,to
assesswhatsubjectscouldremember(asameasureofavailability),eachnamewasrepresented,aswellas
theappropriatephotographifonehadbeenoriginallypresented.Thestudyconsideredwhetherthedisplay
ornondisplayofphotographsbiasedsubjects'estimatesastothepercentageofYale(vsStanford)students
inthesampleofmenandwomenwhosenamesappearedontheoriginallist,andwhethertheseestimated
percentageswerecausallyrelatedtotherespondents'memoryforthecollegeaffiliationsoftheindividual
studentsonthelist.Thepresenceofphotographsaffectedjudgmentsabouttheproportionofmaleand
femalestudentsatthetwouniversities.Sucheffectshavetypicallybeenattributedtothereadyaccessibility
ofvividlypresentedinformationinmemorythatis,totheavailabilityheuristic.Inbothstudies,vividness
affectedbothavailability(abilitytorecall)andjudgments.However,causalmodelingresultsindicatedthat
theavailabilityheuristicdidnotplayaroleinthejudgmentprocess[24]
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Judgingfrequencyandprobability
Ingeneral,availabilityiscorrelatedwithecologicalfrequency,butitisalsoaffectedbyotherfactors.
Consequently,therelianceontheavailabilityheuristicleadstosystematicbiases.Suchbiasesare
demonstratedinthejudgedfrequencyofclassesofwords,ofcombinatorialoutcomes,andofrepeated
events.Thephenomenonofillusorycorrelationisexplainedasanavailabilitybias.[7]
IntheoriginalTverskyandKahneman(1973)research,threemajorfactorsthatarediscussedarethe
frequencyofrepetition,frequencyofcooccurrence,andillusorycorrelation.Theuseoffrequencyof
repetitionaidsintheretrievalofrelevantinstances.Theideabehindthisphenomenon,isthatthemorean
instanceisrepeatedwithinacategoryorlist,thestrongerthelinkbetweenthetwoinstancesbecomes.
Individualsthenusethestrongassociationbetweentheinstancestodeterminethefrequencyofaninstance.
Consequentlytheassociationbetweenthecategoryorlistandthespecificinstance,ofteninfluences
frequencyjudgements.FrequencyofcooccurrencestronglyrelatestoFrequencyofrepetition,suchthatthe
moreanitempairisrepeated,thestrongertheassociationbetweenthetwoitemsbecomes,leadingtoabias
whenestimatingfrequencyofcooccurrence.Duetothephenomenaoffrequencyofcooccurrence,Illusory
correlationsalsooftenplayabigrole.[7]
Anotherfactorthataffectstheavailabilityheuristicinfrequencyandprobabilityisexemplars.Exemplars
arethetypicalexamplesthatstandoutduringtheprocessofrecall.Ifaskedwhatparticipantsthought
differentsetsizeswere(howmanymenandhowmanywomenareintheclass),participantswoulduse
exemplarstodeterminethesizeofeachset.Participantswouldderivetheiransweroneaseofrecallofthe
namesthatstoodout.Participantsreadalistofnamesofmembersofaclassfor30seconds,andthen
participantswereaskedthemaletofemaleratiooftheclass.Theparticipant'sanswerwoulddependonthe
recallofexemplars.Iftheparticipantreadingthelistrecalledseeingmorecommonmalenames,suchas
Jack,buttheonlyfemalenamesintheclasswereuncommonnames,suchasDeepika,thentheparticipant
willrecallthatthereweremorementhanwomen.Theoppositewouldbetrueifthereweremorecommon
femalenamesonthelistanduncommonmalenames.Duetotheavailabilityheuristic,namesthataremore
easilyavailablearemorelikelytoberecalled,andcanthusalterjudgmentsofprobability.[25]
Anotherexampleoftheavailabilityheuristicandexemplarswouldbeseeingasharkintheocean.Seeinga
sharkhasagreaterimpactonyourmemorythanseeingadolphin.Ifsomeoneseesbothsharksanddolphins
intheocean,theywillbelessawareofseeingthedolphins,becausethedolphinshadlessofanimpacton
theirmemory.Duetothegreaterimpactofseeingashark,theavailabilityheuristiccaninfluencethe
probabilityjudgementoftheratioofsharksanddolphinsinthewater.Thus,anindividualwhosawbotha
sharkandadolphinwouldassumeahigherratioofsharksinthewater,eveniftherearemoredolphinsin
reality.[25]

Critiques
Easeofrecallasacritique
OneoftheearliestandmostpowerfulcritiquesoftheoriginalTverskyandKahneman[26]studyonthe
availabilityheuristicwastheSchwarzetal.[3]studywhichfoundthattheeaseofrecallwasakey
componentindeterminingwhetheraconceptbecameavailable.Manystudiessincethiscriticismofthe
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originalavailabilityheuristicmodelhaverepeatedthisinitialcriticism,thattheeaseofrecallfactorbecame
anintegralfacetoftheavailabilityheuristicitself(seeResearchsection).

Alternativeexplanations
Muchofthecriticismagainsttheavailabilityheuristichasclaimedthatmakinguseofthecontentthat
becomeavailableinourmindisnotbasedontheeaseofrecallassuggestedbySchwarzetal.[3]For
exampleitcouldbearguedthatrecallingmorewordsthatbeginwithKthanwordswiththethirdletter
beingKcouldarisefromhowwecategorizeandprocesswordsintoourmemory.Ifwecategorizewordsby
firstletter,andrecallthemthroughthesameprocess,thiswouldshowmoresupportforthe
representativenessheuristicthantheavailabilityheuristic.Basedonthepossibilityofexplanationssuchas
these,someresearchershaveclaimedthattheclassicstudiesontheavailabilityheuristicaretoovaguein
thattheyfailtoaccountforpeople'sunderlyingmentalprocesses.Indeed,astudyconductedbyWankeet
al.demonstratedthisscenariocanoccurinsituationsusedtotesttheavailabilityheuristic.[27]Futurestudies
shouldbeconductedtodetermineifandwhenthisalternativeexplanationwilloccur.
Asecondlineofstudyhasshownthatfrequencyestimationmaynotbetheonlystrategyweusewhen
makingfrequencyjudgments.Arecentlineofresearchhasshownthatoursituationalworkingmemorycan
accesslongtermmemories,andthismemoryretrievalprocessincludestheabilitytodeterminemore
accurateprobabilities.[28]Thisfindingsuggeststhatmoreresearchshouldbeconductedtodeterminehow
muchmemoryactivationaffectstheavailabilityheuristic.

Seealso
Affectheuristic
Agendasettingtheory
Anecdotalevidence
Anecdotalvalue
Attributesubstitution
Gambler'sfallacy
Illusorycorrelation
Listofbiasesinjudgmentanddecisionmaking
Misleadingvividness
Processingfluency
Representativenessheuristic
Texassharpshooterfallacy

References
1. Esgate,AnthonyGroome,David(2005).AnIntroductiontoAppliedCognitivePsychology.PsychologyPress.
p.201.ISBN9781841693187.
2. Phung,Albert."BehavioralFinance:KeyConceptOverreactionandAvailabilityBias"
(http://www.investopedia.com/university/behavioral_finance/).Investopedia.February25,2009.p.10.December
1,2013.
3. Schwarz,NorbertBless,HerbertStrack,FritzKlumpp,GiselaRittenauerSchatka,HelgaSimons,Annette
(1991)."Easeofretrievalasinformation:Anotherlookattheavailabilityheuristic".JournalofPersonalityand
SocialPsychology61(2):195202.doi:10.1037/00223514.61.2.195.
4. HeuristicsandBiases:ThePsychologyofIntuitiveJudgment.
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5. Gilovich,T.D.,Griffin,D.,&Kahneman,D.(2002)."HeuristicsandBiases:ThePsychologyofIntuitive
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