How Cognitive Biases Affect Our Social Judgments – Understanding Representational, Availability, and Anchoring Heuristics

When we judge things, we always use past experience as the background. Although this is inevitable, many times people will “cut corners.”

Cognitive heuristics: refers to the fact that people like to take shortcuts when recognizing things. They do not judge all the information about things, but tend to take shortcuts to perceive the most obvious information that is most necessary for forming judgments. Phenomenon.

It is a decision-making rule that people often use to reason quickly and easily and draw conclusions.

Cognitive heuristics are prone to bias. When faced with judgments about uncertain events, people often use three heuristics.

Representational heuristics :

Refers to people comparing current information or events based on how similar they are to what they believe to be typical information or events.

This strategy holds that the more similar an individual is to the general members of a group, the more likely he is to be a member of that group.


When we judge others, we do not judge based on the characteristics of the other person we currently see. Instead, we combine past experience and search for people similar to the other person in our brains.

For example, when you see a woman wearing revealing clothes and having a romantic manner, you may classify her as a nightclub girl. When you see a man wearing a suit and leather tie, who has an extraordinary bearing, you may think that she is a company boss… …

People’s judgments of others are always based on comparing them with similar people who have appeared in their minds. Each group has a unique behavioral style, and its group members always have common characteristics.

Therefore, representational heuristics are often accurate. But when personal characteristics are inconsistent with other members, representational heuristics will produce the base rate fallacy, that is, ignoring the probability of things happening and making wrong judgments.


For example, there are two judgments about a person in a suit and tie on the street. One is that the person is a company executive, and the other is that the person is a company employee.

Many people will choose the former, but they don’t realize that the latter is more likely and the former less likely, so representational heuristics can also go wrong.

People who rely too much on representational heuristics will make wrong judgments about others and may form wrong impressions of others, thereby increasing the probability of misunderstandings, ill will and other interpersonal conflicts.

Therefore, when people make comparisons, they need to think comprehensively and consciously, and cannot always rely on previous character templates.

Usability inspiration :

It refers to information that is easy to associate and recall, and people like to rely on that information to make judgments, compared with events related to information that is not easy to recall.

Events that are closely associated with easy recall are thought to occur more frequently and are more likely to occur.


For example, in a romantic relationship, some people always like to blame and question the other person’s behavior, thinking that the other person is not good enough to them, and list the things they have done for each other in an attempt to make the other person feel guilty.

Sometimes one party may indeed not have done enough, but more often than not, both people can tell what they have done, but forget what the other party has done. why is that?

Research shows that people always pay great attention to their own behavior, so they retain their memory better than other people’s behavior. Also, because people have to protect their self-worth and have a high level of involvement in love, they are more likely to be involved. Unable to admit one’s mistakes.

In short, people often only remember the good things they have done and the bad things others have done, so they always think that these things happen more frequently and blame others for it, without realizing that they have selectively forgotten other things.

People who rely too much on availability heuristics do not think comprehensively, because this means that they always extract information that is easy to recall when making judgments. Most of this information is beneficial to them or stereotyped.

Therefore, in social cognition, people need to be more vigilant and increase their efforts when searching for information from memory to prevent thinking from becoming rigid or stereotyped.

Anchoring inspiration:

It refers to a judgment method that first grasps an anchor point, then gradually adjusts it, and finally reaches a conclusion.

Anchoring heuristics are suitable for judging ambiguous information. For ambiguous information, people will first set an anchor point to reduce the ambiguity of the information, and then gradually adjust their judgments.

When it comes to judging people, the anchor point that people often use is themselves.

For example, if people think that there is a person who is very good, then he must be much better than themselves and not Jack Ma. If people are dissatisfied with a person and think that he is too scheming, then they must make a judgment based on their own quality.

However, anchoring heuristics only apply to fuzzy information. Many people blindly use anchoring heuristics in social cognition, and their judgments of things are naturally not objective enough.

Whether it is to judge personal characteristics, behavioral reasons or the causes of events, many people are accustomed to putting themselves in and using their own way of thinking to speculate on them, which inevitably involves subjective will.

Almost all life difficulties stem from this thinking trap, which is cognitive heuristics.

It is a common strategy for us to understand the environment, but it can also dig holes for us. The key lies in whether people can realize it in time and make corrections.

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