How to protect against availability bias

Availability bias is a cognitive bias where individuals tend to rely on information that is easily available or comes readily to mind when making decisions. This can lead to distorted decisions because the information that is easily accessible is not necessarily the most accurate or relevant.

For example, if someone is trying to make a decision about a potential investment and only considers information about similar investments that have performed well in the past, they may be influenced by the availability bias. The easily accessible information about past performance may not accurately reflect the potential future performance of the investment, leading to a distorted decision.

Availability bias can also occur when people rely on personal experiences or anecdotes when making decisions, even though these examples may not be representative of the broader situation. To overcome availability bias, it's important to gather information from a variety of sources and consider a range of possibilities, rather than relying on the first information that comes to mind.

Another example of availability bias is when a person is making a decision about the safety of flying and only considers information about recent plane crashes, despite the fact that flying is much safer than other forms of transportation.

Because plane crashes make headlines and are often sensationalized in the media, they are easily available and come readily to mind. However, this information may not accurately reflect the overall safety of flying.

Availability bias can impact decision making in many areas, such as personal finance, health, and investing, by causing individuals to rely on information that is easily accessible but not necessarily representative of the broader picture.

To protect against availability bias when making decisions:

  1. Gather information from multiple sources: Seek out information from a variety of sources to reduce the influence of easily available information.
  2. Deliberately consider rare or unlikely events: Availability bias can cause people to overlook rare or unlikely events. Make a deliberate effort to consider these events when making decisions.
  3. Be aware of the recency effect: The recency effect refers to the tendency to give more weight to recent information. Be aware of this bias and make an effort to consider information from a broader time frame.
  4. Take a step back: Before making a decision, take a moment to reflect on the information you have and how you came by it, to make sure it is not overly influenced by availability bias.
  5. Seek out expert opinions: Consult experts in the relevant field to help overcome the limitations of your own knowledge and information availability.

By taking these steps, you can reduce the influence of availability bias and make more accurate and informed decisions.