Making decisions based on what pops into your mind first might be easy, but it isn’t always reliable. LSJ looks at why your brain confuses ease of recall with evidence – and what to do about it.
Which is the greater risk to life when you’re swimming in the ocean: shark attack or drowning? While news reports, viral videos, and films like Jaws might lead you to believe sharks are the biggest threat to an afternoon at the beach, you’re much more likely to die by drowning, even though it attracts a lot less attention.
Why does your brain get it so wrong? This is “availability bias” at work – a mental shortcut that judges the probability of events by how quickly and easily examples come to mind. It helps you make decisions quickly, but they’re not always well-informed.
Luckily, it’s possible to beat the bias and make better as well as more balanced choices.
Recall, not fact
Availability bias is everywhere. It’s why we buy a lottery ticket after reading stories about multi-millionaire winners. It’s a huge contributor to fear of plane crashes. It’s why people are more likely to purchase insurance after a natural disaster.