Representativeness heuristic

From Academic Kids

The representative heuristic is a heuristic first identified by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman.

Under the representativeness heuristic, we judge things as being similar based on how closely they resemble each other using prima facie, often superficial qualities, rather than essential characteristics.

Aside from being responsible for stereotyping, there are other claimed effects of the heuristic. We also assume causes to be like effects, and categories to be like their members.

Tversky and Kahneman also claim that the representativeness heuristic is the explanation for the difficulty people have in identifying truly random sequences. As people expect more alternations than are likely to exist in a random sequence, they expect micro-level instances of randomness to be representative (similar) to random sequences over a longer number of trials. (This is known as the clustering illusion.) Representativeness is cited in the similar effect of the gambler's fallacy, the regression fallacy and the conjunction fallacy.

Another psychological heuristic found by Tversky and Kahneman is the availability heuristic.

References

  • Tversky, A. and Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science 185, 1124-1130.

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