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Posted on July 28th, 2012, by

Heuristics plays a very important role in the modern world and it affects considerably the process of decision making. In actuality, heuristics targets at the solution of problems with the help of various approaches that are applied in the process of decision making. However, often heuristics is viewed as a purely theoretical approach to the process of decision making, but, in actuality, heuristics may be successfully applied in the real-world situations and help take decisions. At the same time, it is necessary to understand the fact that heuristics may produce a different impact on the process of decision making depending on the approach applied. In this respect, it should be said that among the variety of approaches that may be applied in the real-world decision making, it is possible to name such approaches as anchoring and availability heuristics, which are quite popular and widely spread in the modern world.

First of all, it should be said that both approaches are, to a significant extent, based on biases which often determine the decision making. At any rate, it proves beyond a doubt that the process of decision making inevitably involves biases and stereotypes which affect the perception of the problem and the surrounding world at large. As a result, it is practically impossible to get rid of biases and stereotypes pointblank that actually determines the popularity of anchoring and availability heuristics in the modern decision making.

Speaking about anchoring, it should be pointed out that this approach is based on a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily or “anchor”¯ on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.

In this respect, it should be said that the anchoring implies that people make their decisions on the basis of the existing biases and stereotypes. In practice, this means that the process of decision making takes place when an individual takes a set of traits or pieces which he uses as the basis for the decision making. For instance, when an individual buys a car, he can take the odometer reading and the model year of the car as the basic information for the decision making.

However, it is important to underline that such a decision making is not absolutely objective. The reason is obvious: as an individual heavily relies only two pieces of information, which are not absolutely objective, but which are commonly viewed as important, he can ignore more objective pieces of information about the used car he wants to acquire, such as the state of engine or transmission. In such a way, the individual is anchoring to basic information which is viewed as the most important in the process of decision making while acquiring used cars, but this information is extremely biased since, in actuality, the real state of a used car may differ, even though two cars belong to the same model year, for instance, or if the odometer reading is practically identical. Consequently, it should be said that the anchoring may be viewed as a commonly accepted heuristics approach, but still it is not always absolutely reliable and efficient.

As for the availability heuristics, it should be pointed out that this approach is a rule of thumb, which can result in a cognitive bias, where people base their prediction of the frequency of an event or the proportion within a population based on how easily an example can be brought to mind. In other words, the availability heuristics heavily relies on the existing biases which base the decision making process on the premise of the availability or commonness of such decisions. What is meant here is the fact that the decision is made on the basis of the experience or bias which is accepted by the decision maker, and, in this regard, the positive experience of the decision making can play the crucial role.

In this respect, it is possible to return to the example of an individual buying a used car. On using the availability heuristics approach, the buyer will more likely to choose a car on the basis of his own experience or experience of people he knows well. For instance, his friend may recommend him a model of car he used for a long period of time and which proved to be reliable and fully met the expectations of the friend. As a result, when the buyer finds this model among the variety of other used cars, he will more likely to choose this model among other, regardless their actual state. In other words, objectively, other cars could be newer or in a better state, but the positive experience of using such a car but his friend will influence his decision in favor of this model.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the decision making is a very complicated process that may be affected by various heuristics approaches, which, though, do not always lead to absolutely objective decisions.

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