Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cognitive Bias: Availability Bias

Availability bias is a cognitive bias where the afflicted person simply goes after the most readily available evidence, instead of ALL evidence available, and decided it's enough. It can also manifest itself as in believing that the more vividly remembered evidence is far more likely to occur than the anything else.

If this doesn't quite mean anything to you, perhaps an illustration is in order...

Do you remember your first kiss with your significant other?

How about the fifth?

Clearly, you remember the first one vividly, and the rest... are just blurs.

[ See "First kiss and last supper" ]

But this applies to all events that is relatively rare but widely reported. Things like mass shootings, stranger-child abductions, plane crashes, and so on are widely reported, but in reality they are extremely rare.

Daniel Kahneman, a great psychologist and founder of "behavioral economics" (having never taken any economics class), explained that we don't actually remember experiences. We have MEMORY of experiences, which is NOT the same.

Imagine this scenario: A man goes to this great symphony perform. Everything was great, until the end, when something blew out the speakers and there's an awful screech. The man reports that his entire symphony experience was ruined by that awful screech at the end, even though his experience with the performance is 99% positive and glorious. His MEMORY is dominated by the screech.

Let's try a vacation. Is a two week vacation better than one week vacation? Probably not, because you probably didn't continue to experience new things in the 2nd week, thus you don't remember it much.

So what does all this mean to you?

You should not trust your memory. The remembering self do NOT remember all experiences, just the "significant" ones. If you rely on your memory only, you will not be using all of the data available.

Yet scammers are out there trying to present their scheme in best light possible, to make sure you REMEMBER the alleged opportunity, and how other people are earning money, and so on and so forth. And even then they'll make sure to have something significant to occupy your time, like a giveaway, a celebrity speaker, and so on, so you associate them with something good, something significant, like "make lots of money" (while not remember anything about their disclaimers, or stuff they did NOT cover).  They designed the experience so your emotions made the experience significant enough to commit to memory, and in the future, you'll remember those parts, and the rest, like disclaimers and such, are blurry.

Watch this TED Talk by Daniel Kahneman about Experience vs. Memory.
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