In psychology, a heuristic is a mental shortcut or rule of thumb that people use to simplify their decision-making processes. Heuristics are mental strategies that people use to make judgments quickly and efficiently, but which can also lead to errors or biases.
There are many different types of heuristics, including:
Availability heuristic: This heuristic involves making a judgment based on the ease with which examples come to mind. For example, people may overestimate the likelihood of a rare event if there have been recent media reports about it.
Representativeness heuristic: This heuristic involves making a judgment based on how similar something is to a typical example. For example, people may assume that a person who wears glasses and likes to read is more likely to be a college professor than a truck driver.
Anchoring and adjustment heuristic: This heuristic involves starting with an initial estimate and then adjusting it based on new information. For example, people may estimate the price of a house based on the first number that comes to mind (an anchor) and then adjust it up or down based on features of the house.
Confirmation bias: This is not strictly a heuristic, but it is a cognitive bias that can affect decision-making. Confirmation bias involves seeking out and interpreting information in a way that confirms pre-existing beliefs or expectations. For example, people may discount evidence that contradicts their political beliefs and accept evidence that supports them.
Heuristics can be useful in many situations where people need to make quick decisions, but they can also lead to errors and biases. Being aware of heuristics and biases can help people make more informed decisions.