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availability heuristic labyrinth

Everything You Need to Know About the Availability Heuristic

By Richard J. Oldale,
September 8, 2023

In this article, we explore how the availability heuristic works and take a look at its benefits and pitfalls.

We make a lot of decisions every day. Our decisions range from simple matters such as what to wear to more complex matters like attempting to determine why a particular incident happened. (This is where an understanding of esoteric symbolism pays dividends).  

But ordinarily, the brain has limits. The conscious mind is only capable of processing a small amount of information at any one time. 

So when you are faced with a complex situation, your brain may not have the capacity to consider all the variables, available information and possible alternatives. 

This can lead us to make important life decisions without a clear vision or path. Whilst this is not inherently a bad thing, it can sometimes mean that we set off in the direction in the first place.

One way of avoiding poor choices is a technique known as heuristics. The process behind this decision-making strategy makes the judgment process easier and more intuitive (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). 

The availability heuristic technique creates a shortcut that you can use to assess the likelihood of an event. The assessment is based on how quickly and easily examples come to mind. 

Self Development Healing

Because of how the brain works, when you remember something effortlessly, it must be important and happen frequently. Whilst this can be a useful tool for making quick judgments, it often leads to poor decisions. The reason for this is that memory recall is a habitual program. 

The goal of heuristics is to override the habitual program and drop deeper into the unconscious where your intuition resides. 

The main benefit of the availability heuristic is it allows you to assess risk and make decisions quickly and easily (Pachur et al., 2012). As mentioned above, sometimes you just don’t have the time or resources to gather enough information to evaluate fully. 

Troubleshooting The Availability Heuristic

The availability heuristic provides a foundation to draw conclusions fast, thus freeing up your mind to focus on other things. It simplifies complex decisions so you can take timely action. 

However, ease of memory recall is often a poor guide for judging risk. Memories that are recent, unusual, or have an emotional component stand out. 

But this doesn’t necessarily mean these types of events happen frequently. So it’s easy to see how this can lead to bias, errors in judgment, and poor decisions. Here are a few examples of what can happen:

  • The availability heuristic can actually lead to riskier behaviour.
  • It can create unnecessary worry.
  • ​Miscalculating risk can hold you back from doing things you want to do like traveling or enjoying the ocean.

Examples of The Availability Heuristic

Fear of flying

An often-cited example is overestimating the chances of being in a plane crash because of the extensive media coverage after one happens. This can trigger a fear of flying even though we’re far more likely to die in a car crash. 

After 9/11, the fear of terrorist attacks persuaded many people to travel by car rather than flying, even though the odds of another similar attack were minuscule. This upsurge in car travel led to an increase in car crashes, causing almost as many deaths as the terrorist attack (Blalock et al., 2009).

Fear of terrorist attacks

This also stands out in our minds due to extensive media coverage and its emotional nature.

Fear of getting in the ocean after seeing the movie Jaws: 

It’s more common to die from being struck by lightning or be hit by parts falling off a plane than being attacked by a shark.

Beliefs about global warming

In one study, participants ranked the seriousness of climate change higher if they were asked on a day that was unusually warm as opposed to unusually cold (Li et al., 2011).

​Medical misnomers

Another study showed that people invite unnecessary stress on themselves if a friend is diagnosed with a serious illness, we tend to overestimate our chances of getting it too (Pachur et al., 2012). Ironically, worry and stress can increase the risk of getting sick.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a case of Legionella pneumonia was mistakenly thought to be Covid (Kyere et al., 2022). This can be serious because it leads to inappropriate treatment.

How to Avoid The Availability Heuristic

The first step is becoming aware of it. Ask yourself: ‘Was this the first thing that popped into my mind? Is this memory emotionally charged or especially vivid? Is it something I saw recently in the news?’

If the answer to any of these filtering questions is yes, delay a decision. The choice you have in your head right now is recency bias based on memory. When you are trying to change your future you usually have to do something different. 

Memories are always built on things you have done in the past. 

memories availability heuristic

So, question your initial choices and think about possible alternatives.

There are several ways to do this. 

The first thing to do is to quieten your mind and ask your superconscious. Unless you are super connected it’s doubtful you will get an answer immediately. But it may come in a moment or two. 

However, the right choice may only appear to you later on. In my experience, it’s either when you actively gather more information and you sense the right answer through your inner knowing faculty which I call Sage energy.

Other times, the right information appears randomly. For example, you might be browsing the internet or reading a book on a completely unrelated topic but get inspiration that helps you make a decision.

It’s also not unusual for you to be speaking to a friend or work colleague about something completely unrelated and they say something that sparks an idea. Or you may even overhear a conversation between two strangers and your answer reveals itself. 

This is why they say the Lord (the laws of the Universe) works in mysterious ways. Also, watch out for synchronicity of symbols and numbers. Symbols serve as a guide to making decisions with confidence.

If you want to know how and why symbolism communicates with us, buy the Beginner’s Guide To Symbolism for just $33. In this course, you will learn how you can access all the information you need and how to interpret symbolism — the language of the Universe. 

Beginners Guide To Symbolism

As Plato and countless other philosophers noted, you have access to all the answers you will ever need, you just have realised them yet. In other words, you haven’t received the information you are looking for. But ask, and you will receive. 

“Brothers and sisters,’ he says, ‘the law will allow being united if the lot so fall, and if the Pythian priestess also sanctions it by oracle.”

~ Plato, The Republic

Alternatively, you may decide to speak to someone you trust. If they have a different point of view or idea, give it some consideration without allowing your own bias to interfere. 

But then you put your decision-making in the hands of somebody else. And they don’t know what you need to do as well as your Superconscious does. It is the Superconscious that enables you to reach your full potential. The Superconscious enables you to thrive. 

If you successfully change your initial belief and act in a way that goes against the grain of your habitual program, you are on your way to upgrading your subconscious. 


The Availability Heuristic In Sum

The availability heuristic can help you make better decisions that serve you better further down the road. It’s a useful and necessary tool when faced with uncertainty or when you trying to overcome habitual patterns of behaviour but feel stuck. 

Just be wary not to underestimate risks that can get you in over your head, or for that matter, to overestimate risks that hold you back from doing things you want to do.

The next time you hold back from moving forward because trying something different feels risky, apply ration and reason by asking how many people were not harmed by this activity. 

Or if it feels like you’re worrying a bit too much about something happening, it can help to do some research to find out if your fear is based on fact or propaganda that stoked your emotions at some point in the past.


  • Blalock, G., Kadiyali, V., & Simon, D. H. (2009). Driving fatalities after 9/11: A hidden cost of terrorism. Applied Economics, 41(14), 1717–1729. https://doi.org/10.1080/00036840601069757 
  • Kyere, K., Aremu, T. O., & Ajibola, O. A. (2022). Availability bias and the COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of legionella pneumonia. Cureus. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.25846
  • Li, Y., Johnson, E. J., & Zaval, L. (2011). Local warming. Psychological Science, 22(4), 454–459. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797611400913  
  • Pachur, T., Hertwig, R., & Steinmann, F. (2012). How do people judge risks: Availability heuristic, affect heuristic, or both? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 18(3), 314–330. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0028279 
  • Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124–1131. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.185.4157.1124 
Richard Oldale
Master Mind Content is a leading authority in decoding ancient symbolism . Our research unveils the secrets to understanding and taking control of the the subconscious mind, channeling energy to self-heal and effectively using universal laws to fulfil your potential.

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