Availability heuristics and its use in influencing your decisions

What comes to your mind by the mention of ‘Kashmir’? I’m sure you would have been immediately drawn to think about the abrogation of article 370, the turmoil in the state, stone pelting and the general state of strife. It does not immediately bring to our minds to the beautiful landscapes surrounded by snow-filled mountains, lakes, streams and the wonderful hospitality of the people of Kashmir.

Why does this happen? What influences our conclusions?

It is the continual and extensive media coverage which repeatedly plays out clips which project strife which gets well engrained in our minds and enables instant recall. What we call as top of the mind thoughts or availability heuristics.

Availability heuristics is the mental short-cut which helps us to draw conclusions based on what comes to our mind immediately. Repeated exposure to events, news and objects creates an enabling environment for us to draw conclusions based on availability.

When I say ‘post it’; what came to your mind surely will be the stickers which we often find in offices (if you are working) and for a teenager in college who is active on social media it would trigger a facebook, instagram, snapchat or a twitter post.

When we know that availability heuristics plays an important role in enabling people to draw conclusions, we can put them to use in influencing decisions as well. Making available images or communication to people in a million different ways can deeply influence their minds in drawing conclusions and base their decisions.

There are lessons we all can learn from the television media on ways in which we can influence public opinion and decisions. You can use these methods in teaching, parenting, and even in organizational development.

We need to examine what? are we making available to our audiences already and is it creating its own systemic bias towards the good or bad.

It surely can help us predict our errors and make more informed decisions by eliminating the prejudice which might have crept into our minds due to availability heuristics.

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