Like?

# Types of Heuristics: Availability, Representativeness & Base-Rate

Start Your Free Trial To Continue Watching
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 8,500 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.
Free 5-day trial
It only takes a minute. You can cancel at any time.
Start your free trial to take this quiz
As a premium member, you can take this quiz and also access over 8,500 fun and engaging lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Get access today with a FREE trial!
Free 5-day trial
It only takes a minute to get started. You can cancel at any time.
1. 0:07 Heuristics
2. 1:55 Availability Heutistic
3. 3:23 Representativeness Heuristic
4. 4:18 Base Rate Heuristic
5. 6:00 Lesson Summary
Share
Show Timeline

### Erin Long-Crowell

Did you know that our brain uses strategies to process information and draw conclusions? Although we're able to reach conclusions through these mental strategies, sometimes, our reasoning can be off. Read on to discover how our brain draws these conclusions and why they can be wrong.

## Heuristics

We make decisions and judgments every day - if we can trust someone, if we should do something (or not), which route to take, how to respond to someone who's upset... the list goes on and on. If we carefully considered and analyzed every possible outcome of these decisions and judgments, we would never do anything else!

Thankfully, our mind makes things easier for us by using efficient thinking strategies known as heuristics. A heuristic is a mental shortcut that helps us make decisions and judgments quickly without having to spend a lot of time researching and analyzing information.

For example, when walking down the street, you see a piano tied to a rope above the sidewalk. Without a break in stride, you would likely choose to walk around that area instead of directly underneath the piano. Your intuition would tell you that walking under the piano could be dangerous, so you make a snap judgment to walk around the danger zone. You would probably not stop and assess the entire situation or calculate the probability of the piano falling on you or your chances of survival if that happened. You would use a heuristic to make the decision quickly and without using much mental effort.

Most of the time, heuristics are extremely helpful, but they can lead to errors in judgment. There are several different categories or types of heuristics. Let's discuss three that, although useful in many situations, can lead even the most intelligent people to make dumb decisions: availability, representativeness, and base-rate heuristics.

## Availability Heuristic

First, the availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that helps us make a decision based on how easy it is to bring something to mind. In other words, we often rely on how easy it is to think of examples when making a decision or judgment.

For instance, in 2011, what percentage of crimes do you suppose involved violence? Most people are likely to guess a high percentage because of all the violent crimes - murder, rape, robbery, and assault - that are highlighted on the news. Yet the FBI reported that violent crimes made up less than 12% of all crimes in the United States in 2011.

The problem with the availability heuristic is that we assume that if several examples are readily available in our mind, the event or subject matter is commonplace. But, as with our example of violent crime, that assumption is not always correct.

However, there are many situations in which the availability heuristic is useful and accurate. For example, it's part of what makes us careful in dangerous situations. If we can think of a similar situation that ended badly for someone else, we are more likely to be cautious and better protect ourselves.

## Representativeness Heuristic

Another type of heuristic is a representativeness heuristic, a mental shortcut that helps us make a decision by comparing information to our mental prototypes. For example, if someone was to describe an older woman as warm and caring with a great love of children, most of us would assume that the older woman is a grandmother. She fits our mental representation of a grandmother, so we automatically classify her into that category.

This heuristic, like others, saves us time and energy. We make a snap decision and assumption without thinking very much. Unfortunately, many examples of the representativeness heuristic involve succumbing to stereotypes. We might assume that someone who loves skateboarding is always getting into trouble or that a child dislikes healthy food.

## Base-Rate Heuristic

The final type of heuristic we'll discuss in this lesson is the base-rate heuristic, a mental shortcut that helps us make a decision based on probability. For an example, imagine you live in a big city and hear an animal howling around midnight. You would probably assume it was just a dog, as wolves aren't likely to be found in the city. Statistically, a wolf howling in the city would be very improbable.

## Unlock Content Over 8,500 lessons in all major subjects

Get FREE access for 5 days,
just create an account.

No obligation, cancel anytime.

Select a subject to preview related courses:

###### People are saying…

"This just saved me about \$2,000 and 1 year of my life." — Student

"I learned in 20 minutes what it took 3 months to learn in class." — Student

See more testimonials

Yes No

### What didn't you like?

What didn't you like?

Congratulations! You've reached the last video in the chapter.
###### Create your Account

Sign up now for your account. Get unlimited access to 8,500 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more.

###### Meet Our Instructors

Meet all 53 of our instructors

###### Related Articles
• Related
• Recently Updated
• Popular