Browse Definitions :
Definition

availability bias

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

The availability bias is the human tendency to think that examples of things that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case. The psychological phenomenon is just one of a number of cognitive biases that hamper critical thinking and, as a result, the validity of our decisions.

The availability bias results from a cognitive shortcut known as the availability heuristic, defined as the reliance on those things that we immediately think of to enable quick decisions and judgments. That reliance helps us avoid laborious fact-checking and analysis but increases the likelihood that our decisions will be flawed.

Naturally, the things that are most memorable can be brought to mind most quickly. However, there are a number of factors that influence how well we remember things. For example, we tend to remember things that we observed ourselves more easily than things that we only heard about. So, for example, if we personally know of several startups and all of them are successful, we are likely to overestimate the percentage of startups that succeed, even if we have read statistics to the contrary.

Similarly, people remember vivid events like plane crashes and lottery wins, leading some of us to overestimate the likelihood that our plane will crash or, more optimistically -- but equally erroneously -- that we will win the lottery. In these cases, the availability bias leads some people to avoid flying at all costs and leads others to rely on a big lottery win as a retirement plan.

Other cognitive biases include the confirmation bias, which involves giving undue credence to materials that support our own beliefs and attitudes, and the self-serving bias, which involves putting a positive spin on our own activities and interpreting ambiguous data in a way that suits our own purposes.

Cognitive biases are among a number of types of errors that humans are prone to. Awareness of the tendency to make such errors is one of the first steps required to improve our capacity for critical thinking.

Which is more deadly, sharks or horses? Watch a video about how the availability bias might lead you astray:

This was last updated in February 2017

Continue Reading About availability bias

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • compliance audit

    A compliance audit is a comprehensive review of an organization's adherence to regulatory guidelines.

  • regulatory compliance

    Regulatory compliance is an organization's adherence to laws, regulations, guidelines and specifications relevant to its business...

  • Whistleblower Protection Act

    The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a law that protects federal government employees in the United States from ...

SearchSecurity

  • RSA algorithm (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman)

    The RSA algorithm is the basis of a cryptosystem -- a suite of cryptographic algorithms that are used for specific security ...

  • remote access

    Remote access is the ability to access a computer or a network remotely through a network connection.

  • IP Spoofing

    IP spoofing is the crafting of Internet Protocol (IP) packets with a source IP address that has been modified to impersonate ...

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • network disaster recovery plan

    A network disaster recovery plan is a set of procedures designed to prepare an organization to respond to an interruption of ...

  • virtual disaster recovery

    Virtual disaster recovery is a type of DR that typically involves replication and allows a user to fail over to virtualized ...

  • tabletop exercise (TTX)

    A tabletop exercise (TTX) is a disaster preparedness activity that takes participants through the process of dealing with a ...

SearchStorage

  • enterprise storage

    Enterprise storage is a centralized repository for business information that provides common data management, protection and data...

  • disk array

    A disk array, also called a storage array, is a data storage system used for block-based storage, file-based storage or object ...

  • optical storage

    Optical storage is any storage type in which data is written and read with a laser. Typically, data is written to optical media, ...

Close