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Problem Solving and Decision Making: Heuristics, Biases, Intuition and Emotion – Cognition (PSY)

by Tarry Ahuja, MD
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    00:01 Now, let’s take a look at these heuristics in action a little bit more and we’re goingto look at the impact that it can have.

    00:09 So in terms of logic and our decision-making.

    00:12 So humans are not always logical.

    00:14 We do things, and you’ve done it, I’ve done it.

    00:16 You know people around you have done it, and you’re saying, well, that kind of doesn’t make sense.

    00:20 How did you come to that point? Well, heuristics are the shortcuts that we mentioned and these actually increase the efficiency in decision-making but can lead to errors in judgment.

    00:29 Because you’re following that shortcut and the shortcut is just that, you’re skipping steps, you’re introducing error.

    00:35 And it also, if you’re following a heuristical approach, you are following these shortcuts, you can actually make some mistakes in terms of choosing the inappropriate heuristic, and so we call that an error in judgment.

    00:47 So representativeness heuristic is a tendency to judge the likelihood of an event occurring based on our typical mental representation of those events.

    00:57 So, again, if you already know the outcome or you think you know the outcome and you have a representation of that outcome, of that shortcut, then that’s going to determine sort of what you believe and what you think.

    01:09 So let’s go through an example so this makes a little more sense.

    01:12 I’m going to present these three things here.

    01:14 So, what is more likely to happen to you? Right now, I’m asking you, getting crushed by a vending machine, getting killed by a shark, or getting killed by a tornado? So, is it A, is it B, is it C? Is it the Coke machine, is it Jaws, or is it a twister? Now, your inkling might be, say, well, yeah, shark attack because sharks are crazy and they’re killers and they’re everywhere and they’re going to attack me, and part of that is, you know, we’re -- I don’t want to say we’re inundated with it, but you hear about it all the time.

    01:40 Another shark attack and you go swimming in the ocean.

    01:42 Sometimes you’re thinking, oh my God, maybe a shark is going to get me.

    01:45 The actual answer is a vending machine.

    01:48 So the chances of a Coke machine falling on you are higher than an actual shark attack or tornado.

    01:54 Now, we’re generalizing because if you live right by the ocean and you’re a surfer and you’re going swimming every day, maybe your chances are a little bit higher.

    02:00 But the average person, the chances of getting killed by a vending machine are higher.

    02:05 And the reason that’s happened is our representative heuristic of shark attacks and tornadoes is more prevalent and is -- is more biased versus a vending machine.

    02:15 You probably haven’t even thought of dying by a vending machine, and you do and have thought of dying by a shark or tornado.

    02:23 And so we have a heuristic for that, for shark attack or tornado, and so that supersedes and is more biased than that for a vending machine because we either don’t have one or it’s very, very weak.

    02:37 Now, availability heuristic is a tendency to make judgments based on how readily available information is in our memories.

    02:44 And, again, this can come back to the heuristic we just mentioned.

    02:47 If you have no idea about a vending machine, well, that’s going to obviously influence it.

    02:52 And if you have a heuristic that’s very common, you hear or interact with all the time, that’s going to have a huge impact.

    02:58 So more recently presented information tends to hold more weight or prevalence.

    03:01 If you just watched a movie, a huge documentary on shark attacks, that’s going to carry more weight than, you even considering a vending machine falling on you.

    03:10 So what did you watch on the news today? Did you see something about a terrorist attack? Did you see something about a shark attack? Well, that’s going to have more prevalence for you right now.

    03:18 That’s right in your face and it’s very, very current, it’s going to carry more weight.

    03:23 Now a belief bias is the tendency to judge the strength of arguments based on what one believes about their conclusions rather than on sound logic.

    03:30 So, we’ll write that down into English.

    03:33 What we’re saying here is if you believe in something and that judgment has already been made, you’re more concerned about that than the actual logic that refutes that.

    03:44 So, you know, in this diagram that we have here, the world is flat.

    03:49 If you believe in that and people keep coming to you with information that the world is actually not flat, you’re still going to carry more weight on your arguments and the data that you have rather on sound logic that they’re presenting to you saying, “Well, no, listen. I actually just flew around the world,” or “I just sailed around the world and I’m pretty sure it’s not flat.” “Well, that’s wrong. Maybe you just went in a circle and you didn’t actually go all the way around.” And they’re going to refute because of their beliefs.

    04:14 So, we call that belief bias.

    04:18 Belief perseverance is when pre-existing beliefs come resistant to change.

    04:22 Now, once you have used this belief bias and you have a belief system, it’s going to persist.

    04:28 And in simple English, it’s very difficult to change somebody’s view on something.

    04:32 It’s very difficult to change their belief.

    04:35 Those beliefs persist.

    04:37 That’s why we say belief perseverance, so, really, really hard, very, very resistant to change.

    04:44 Intuitive heuristics and a tendency to confirm preconceived beliefs can lead to over-confidence.

    04:50 So, again, if you know in your mind something to be true, and that’s a belief, and it has been confirmed before, then, you have this over-confidence that it’s absolutely right and there’s nothing that can refute that.

    05:02 And, again, that’s not appropriate, right? So we know that there are so many times that a heuristic is not accurate and should change and can change, but your over-confidence will skew that.

    05:12 And then, lastly, is in the packaging.

    05:14 Individuals are also influenced by how information is framed, and by framing we mean how is it presented to you? So, say for example we’re looking at some of the food today and there’s a whole drive to have less salt.

    05:28 So, this is kind of a local regional example that I have from Canada.

    05:32 And there, the government got involved and said, “Listen, you need to reduce the amount of salt in your prepackaged soups and your cans of soup.” And so, the government implemented a law and said, “You have within five years.

    05:45 You need to reduce the amount of sodium or salt in your prepackaged soups by 20%.” And so, that’s been mandated.

    05:53 Now, the soup company decided, “So, why don’t we actually change how this is framed to benefit us? And what we’ll do is,” they came out with this whole ad campaign and it showed them being a caring partner in your health and they said, you know, Company X -- so I won’t say the name.

    06:10 But Company X has decided that we will reduce amount of sodium by 20% within the next three years because we care.

    06:17 And then in the commercial they showed the amount of salt that’s being reduced and you’re just like, “You know what? What a great company.

    06:21 They care about me and they’re reducing the amount of salt.” Now, the reality is they had to. They had no choice. They’re being mandated to.

    06:29 But in how they framed the message is how it impacts you.

    06:33 So we can do that for so many different things.

    06:35 A lot of marketing and a lot of what’s presented to you is dependent on how it’s framed.

    06:40 And this can apply to when you’re trying to interact with say your children.

    06:44 How are you framing the situation? Are you telling them you have to go to bed now or do you say, “Well, you know what? All the different prince, all the princesses tend to go to sleep around this time.” Like, “What? Really? If that’s when they go to bed, I want to be a princess. I am a princess. I should go to bed too.” How did you frame that? Did you tell them or did you frame it in a way where they feel like they have a choice and it aligns with the princess mentality? Right?


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Problem Solving and Decision Making: Heuristics, Biases, Intuition and Emotion – Cognition (PSY) by Tarry Ahuja, MD is from the course Making Sense of the Environment.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. He does not use phones.
    2. He watched a documentary about radiation a week ago.
    3. His father who frequently uses his phone recently got diagnosed with cancer.
    4. He recently read about the harmful effects of phones.
    5. His mother also avoids using phones for this reason.
    1. It relies on mental representations of events.
    2. It relies on recent information rather than prevalence.
    3. It focuses on facts which support the heuristic
    4. It is an extremely inaccurate way of problem solving.
    5. It is based on beliefs that are resistant to change.
    1. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it and maintains his regular diet.
    2. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it, so he searches for evidence to prove his own beliefs right.
    3. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he changes his diet.
    4. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it and decides to ask for a second opinion. After hearing the second opinion, he decreases his sugar but not his cholesterol intake.
    5. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it. After reading the effects of sugar and cholesterol, he changes his diet.
    1. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it, so he searches for evidence to prove his own beliefs right. Upon finding his evidence, he maintains his usual diet.
    2. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it and maintains his regular diet.
    3. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he changes his diet.
    4. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it and decides to ask for a second opinion. After hearing the second opinion, he decreases his sugar but not his cholesterol intake.
    5. Rick's diet is high in sugar and cholesterol. After listening to his doctors advice, he doesn't believe it. After reading the effects of sugar and cholesterol, he changes his diet.

    Author of lecture Problem Solving and Decision Making: Heuristics, Biases, Intuition and Emotion – Cognition (PSY)

     Tarry Ahuja, MD

    Tarry Ahuja, MD


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