Last updated: August 1, 2019
Topic: Food
Sample donated:


Ever faced a problem in making a decision? But mostly while
making a decision all of us focus on one aspect of the problem and ignore all
others, like for example if one person travels long distances for some classes,
we might just look at the problem regarding the distances and ignore all others
which later on might create us problems, that’s what heuristics are. As per psychology,
they are mental shortcuts that usually involve focusing on one aspect of a
complex problem and ignoring others. But sometimes making such decisions can
lead to systematic deviations from logic, probability or rational choice theory
and are known as cognitive biases. They lead to intuitive judgements due to the
lack of information. Thus such heuristics helps in making decisions in a short
span of time without thinking much and analyzing all the avenues of the
situation. In search of the immediate goals, heuristics is the right option as
they speed up the process of making a decision, but like how a coin has two
sides, these decisions can be in favor of something or might not be in favor of
something. In regard to the notion that using heuristics may lead to incorrect
conclusions, it is also the case that using heuristics can lead to conclusions
that may be correct yet inaccurate in some way. The examples of such are the
rule of thumb or stereotyping, where people don’t have to think, analyze and
investigate much but find a solution to the problem quickly. For example, while
studying a night before for an upcoming exam and you’re left with a lot many
things to study so without thinking much at the last moment, you just study all
the important topics instead of studying the whole book, that’s when you make a
decision like which is quick and without using much of a mental effort and
that’s how you use a heuristic.

There are three types of heuristics, like the availability
heuristic whereby people make judgments about the likelihood of an event based
on how easily an example, instance, or case comes to mind like. When faced with
a choice, we often lack the time or resources to investigate in greater depth.
Faced with the need for an immediate decision, the availability heuristic
allows people to quickly arrive at a conclusion. For example, after seeing
various students have been caught bunking college everyday, you start to think
that such incidences are relatively common. So even you start avoiding bunking
college as you believe the probability of being caught is high. The
availability heuristic can be a helpful tool, but it is also important to
remember that it can sometimes lead to incorrect assessments. Just because
something looms large in your memory does not necessarily mean that it is more
common, so it can be helpful to rely on numerous tools and decision-making
strategies when you are trying to make a choice.


On the other hand, representative heuristic talks about the
mental shortcut which helps us make a decision by comparing information to
mental prototypes. The representativeness heuristic was first described by
psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman during the 1970s. Like other
heuristics, making judgments based on representativeness is intended to work as
a type of mental shortcut, allowing us to make decisions quickly. However, it
can also lead to errors. When we make decisions based on representativeness, we
may be likely to make more errors by overestimating the likelihood that
something will occur. Just because an event or object is representative does
not mean its occurrence is more probable. Like for example, inorder to identify
a person as a teacher, people will assume the person to be tidy,well organized
and well behaved but on the other hand if it’s a rapper or a singer, then the
assumption would be completely different like as a cool person, long
hair,casually dressed etc.

In their classic 1974 book Judgment Under Uncertainty:
Heuristics and Biases, Tversky and Kahneman describe one example of how the
representativeness heuristic can influence our perceptions of other people.
They describe an individual who is seen as shy, withdrawn, helpful, but not
necessarily concerned with the world of reality. This person is also described
as tidy, meek, and detailed with a passion for order and structure.


In this study, I’ll be referring to two research papers
where heuristics have played a major role in making decisions. Like in research
paper prior of 2011 talks about as mentioned by Daniel Kahneman’s and Amos
Tversky’s that heuristics or rules of thumbs afford useful proxies most of the
time. As in, he talks about the different kinds of heuristics as mentioned
below in the classical paper by Tversky in 1974,


Field Of Application



Memory-Based jugdements of frequency or probability

Overestimation of risks that are easily available in


Jugdements of likelihood of instances belonging to a

Birth order son-daughter-son-daughter more representative
of random outcome than son-son-son

Anchoring and adjustment

Quantitative estimates on a unidimensional scale

Cost calculations biased towards starting value


As said in the research paper, The representativeness
heuristic involves the prediction of the so-called base-rate neglect. For example,
if a person Is having a stomach ache after having dinner then the person must
think that it may be due to food poisoning but maybe it be due to the other
factors as well and may be the probability of having food poisoning can be
pretty low. As in talking about the most famous example of the word t, people
may think of more words of the word t in the initial place than the words with
t in the third place. The role of heuristics was a lot on the development of
cognitive,social and applied psychology but nowadays it Is mentioned pretty
less in the textbooks and taught to students, but still the decision making and
the judgements relies on Kahneman and Tversky. Whereas the critique given by Gigerenzer
as quotes by him is

“The heuristics in the heuristics-and-biases program are too
vague to count as explanations. They are labels with the virtue of Rorschach
inkblots: A researcher can read into them what he or she wishes. The reluctance
to specify precise and falsifiable process models, to clarify the antecedent
conditions that elicit various heuristics, and to work out the relationship between
heuristics have been repeatedly pointed out”

He didn’t approve the theory of representatives and to
justify this he tried explaining as, people think of deaths maybe due to option
A as murder or lightening or as B which is disease or suicide. But people may
think more of option A as it is more upcoming in the media and in the recent
news as compared to option B, as a result he tried justifying this mindset of the

Old research papers also mentioned that heuristics are not
universally used, they are only used in certain situations.

In the recent research on the heuristics in decision making,
it explained that it can be triggered by situational factors such as task and
context and by personal factors too. Earlier research papers have not talked
about different heuristics but also the classification of the decision making styles.
This paper’s main aim is to talk about the relationship between the decision
making styles and the use of different heuristics. Nowadays recently, people
focus more on the heuristics rather than an important decision that would lead
to cognitive processes. This research paper talks about the two heuristics
which are recognition heuristic and the take the best heuristic by Gigerenzer. The
recognition heuristic as an efficient rule of thumb can be described as a strategy
relying on only one piece of information and ignoring other information. According
to Gigerenzer,if a decision maker has to make a choice between two objects and
recognizes one of them, he or she infers that the recognized object has the
higher value on a given criterion and thus will prefer it over the unrecognized

On the other hand, take the best focuses not upon the
complicated information and focus on just one cue.