Availability Bias – Why You Make a Wrong Decision Quickly

When it comes to making decisions, your brain uses heuristics to help you make the best choice in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, these heuristics can lead to availability bias: a tendency to make decisions based on the first information that comes to mind.

If you have your mind made up about something before you even begin to collect data, you’re more likely to only look for information that supports your pre-existing point of view. For example, if someone thinks they know what’s best for them and makes up their mind before they even get started with the research, they might be more likely to look at evidence that supports their position than evidence that might contradict it.

In other words, availability bias can cause you to believe something is true because it’s easy to find evidence that supports it—even when there are better explanations out there.

What is Availability Bias?

You might think that decisions are made by carefully weighing the evidence, but in reality a lot of the time they happen in an instant and with little or no thought. This is because we use heuristics to help us make decisions quickly. A heuristic is a mental shortcut that allows us to make judgments or form opinions about things without having to process all the information around it.

Availability bias is the tendency to make decisions based on the information that’s easiest to recall. In other words, we use the availability heuristic when we make judgments about the probability of events—whether they’re likely or unlikely, what will happen and how often.

We base these judgments on how easily we can recall examples of something happening or not happening—and this leads us to make some big mistakes when trying to predict things that haven’t happened yet!

Examples of the availability heuristic

There are plenty of examples of the availability heuristic in real life. For instance, if you’re looking at a new car and decide to buy it based on how many times you’ve seen that exact model driving around town, then you’re using the availability heuristic.

During the meetings you conduct, you trick yourself into believing that everything is going according to plan. You choose to avoid asking challenging questions that could advance the company and produce superior outcomes.

When a patient arrives at the hospital, they could exhibit ten various symptoms. Four of them don’t, while six of them have flu-like symptoms. The patient will probably be given the flu diagnosis if the doctor cannot link the patient’s 10 symptoms to another illness.

The other side of the coin – The recency effect

The recency effect is a cognitive bias that causes people to overestimate the importance of information that is most recently presented to them. This can be very dangerous for your decision-making as you might place too much weight on recent events, which could lead you to make a wrong decision.

For example, if you’re looking into buying a new car and have found two cars that fit your needs and budget perfectly. One has had no issues since it was bought 2 years ago while the other one has had problems with its transmission over the last year. If asked which car would be better for you, most people would choose based on recent events (i.e., they think they’ll have fewer problems with transmissions than if they buy an older model).

Pause and take a step back

You can avoid making wrong decisions by taking a step back and asking yourself if you’re basing your judgement on facts or just on what comes to mind first.

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make an important decision based solely on information that’s readily available to you. This is where the availability bias comes into play: we tend to make judgement calls based on information that’s easily come by, even though it may not be accurate or relevant in any way. In order for this problem to occur, there needs to be a lot of emotion involved; when the stakes are high enough, we’ll gravitate toward whatever makes us feel good at that particular moment—even if it’s not right for us in the long run.

So how can we avoid being influenced by this cognitive bias? By asking ourselves questions like “Am I basing my decision off fact or just what comes first?” Being aware of how our brains work will help prevent us from making decisions without thinking through them fully first; which brings me back around again…

This is why we need to make sure that we have all the facts in front of us before making a decision. It’s also important for us to take a step back and think about whether our first impressions are right or wrong. If they’re not right, then we should change them accordingly.

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