What You Should Know About Heuristics

Last modified: Saturday, Feb 8, 2020

Daniel Cuttridge


Want to improve your life? In all areas?

Most of us do...

Heuristics are described as judgmental shortcuts, and we all use them.

In general this is a good thing.

However, it can lead to bias, prejudice and ultimately inaccurate judgements.

If you want to improve your life then you need to think critically... So you need to be aware of as many heuristics as possible.

So let's take a look at some of the most common ones which lead to cognitive biases.

Common Heuristics

Escalation of Commitment

This is a heuristic which becomes bias when people justify increasing investment (time, money) in a decision based on their prior decisions, and the investment made.

Remember, this isn't always a conscious decision.

So it is important to ask ourselves whether this is truly the right decision.

Familiarity Heuristic

Familiarity bias is very common.

Often we tend to apply the same approach based on what worked previously.

While it is true that you can have success sticking to what has worked in the past, eventually, it will catch you out.

Contagion Heuristic

The Contagion Heuristic is all about avoiding contamination.

If something or someone is viewed as bad we want to avoid that thing.

This becomes a bias when we practice avoidance without adequate reason.

A good example is avoiding a restaurant because you heard the food was bad...

While this often works to your benefit, you could also miss out on a great meal because your acquantaince has different food preferences to you.

Effort Heuristic

This Heuristic asserts that if we make more effort in gaining something, or creating something that it is inherently worth more.

This cognitive bias can lead us to believe something we're selling is worth more than it actually is.


Because we put a lot of effort into it!

This particular Heuristic can lead to many poor decisions in business especially.

Fluency Heuristic

Little known fact... 83.33% of all people do this every day.

Believe me?

That would be because of Fluency Bias.

When something is presented confidently you are more likely to believe it.

If I had told you that 80 percent or something of people do this, you wouldn't have been as likely to believe it.

(The statistic was completely made up just so you know).

Another way this Heuristic can be bad?

If a politician makes an argument you are also more likely to believe them if it flows better.

Regardless of the facts.

Appearances are everything as they say.

Similarity Heuristic

This Heuristic can create a Similarity Bias which is also easily manipulated.

The whole idea of this heuristic is to increase efficiency.

The goal is to be attaining more positive experiences, and minimizing the negative ones.

E.g. You are more likely to trust based on a past favorable experience with something similar.

This is why small brands relentlessly copy their larger more successful competitors packaging, etc.

Availability Heuristic

This Heuristical Bias explains why being top of mind in branding is so important.

The Availability Heuristic asserts that we tend to value what is easily recalled more favorably than alternative options.

Regardless of the merits of the other options.

This means that the first thing that comes to mind is usually the option we will take.

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