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How Heuristics And Biases Influence Decision-Making

heuristics and biases influence decision making

This decision, too, also comes with a different decision choice. Your heuristics will help you select an alternative product that meets some criteria. You might, for example, look for a different product within your usual brand or you might look for a similar type of deodorant made by a different brand. You might refine your decision by looking at ratings and price, eventually concluding some product is good enough to meet whatever criteria you set.

However, you are not likely going to engage in an extensive review of evidence to help you reach that final decision. Instead, you may employ a satisficing heuristic (opting for the first product that looks good enough), a similarity heuristic (opting for the product that looks closest to your current deodorant), or some other heuristic to help you select the product you decide to order.

Thus, when attempting to resolve the Great Deodorant Crisis, the strength of your bias ends up influencing how you approach the decision (whether to buy the same product or not) and your heuristics help you filter information in a way that speeds up your decision-making.

cognitive bias
How Heuristics And Biases Influence Decision-Making

Related: What Is The Dunning-Kruger Effect (And How To Avoid This Cognitive Bias)

While the deodorant example is obviously simple, biases and heuristics play a role in almost all decisions we make. Choices about who to hire, how to invest in the stock market, and when to seek medical care when something ails us are examples of more important decisions that are all influenced by biases and heuristics.

We may have multiple biases at play in such decisions (e.g., toward job applicants who appear to be more like us, toward particular skills sets or past jobs), and more complex decisions may rely on a greater number of or more complex heuristics (e.g., using fast-and-frugal trees to determine acceptability of a job applicant and then applying a more sophisticated take-the-best heuristic to make a final selection)(8).

The question, though, is often whether your biases and heuristics are aiding or inhibiting the ecological rationality of your decision, and that will vary from situation to situation.

Please share this article on heuristics and biases with anyone who you may think will find it valuable and helpful.



[1] Gigerenzer and Brighton (2009) chronicled how they became entangled.
[2] They often influence which option we choose.
[3] They often influence how we make that choice (the if/then processing that leads to a final conclusion).
[4] And nobody wants to stink during their Zoom call. Am I right?
[5] Your biases may also have influenced the online vendor you chose to buy from, which was a second decision we could dissect, but I want to keep the example simple here.
[6] And unless it’s like the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 or you use a deodorant that might be more difficult to find, you are likely to be successful there.
[7] Especially since you are already there.
[8] I am not implying that all hiring possesses these biases or relies on these heuristics. Instead, I am simply illustrating examples of the biases and heuristics that may influence the hiring of a job applicant.

Written by: Matt Grawitch, Ph.D
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today 
Republished with permission
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How Heuristics And Biases Influence Decision-Making
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Matt Grawitch, Ph.D.

Matthew J. Grawitch currently works at the School for Professional Studies, Saint Louis University. He currently oversees strategic research at the school, teaches courses in evidence-based decision making and leadership, and conducts research on various aspects of decision making, the work-life interface, psychologically healthy workplace, and personality.View Author posts