Representativeness heuristic

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This article gives a basic definition in behavioral economics.
View a complete list of basic definitions in behavioral economics

Definition

The representativeness heuristic is a heuristic whereby, to judge whether an object belongs to a category, a person compares it to the typical representative he/she has in mind for the category.

Examples

Higher estimation of probability of more specific scenarios

The representativeness heuristic leads people to make logically incorrect inferences. For instance, they may estimate the possibility of a more detailed, hence more specific and less likely scenario, as higher than that of a more generic scenario, because the more specific scenario is closer to their representative.

Underestimation of streaks

Relation with other heuristics

  • Availability heuristic: The representativeness heuristic and availability heuristic are similar, in so far as we can think of the representative as the most available thing.
  • Anchoring and adjustment heuristic: The representativeness heuristic is similar to the anchoring and adjustment heuristic, in so far as we can think of the representative as the anchor and the process of comparison with this representative as the adjustment.

References

Expository book references