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availability heuristic

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A cognitive heuristic through which the frequency or probability of an event is judged by the number of instances of it that can readily be brought to mind. It can generate biased or incorrect judgements, as when people are asked whether the English language contains more words beginning with the letter k or more words with k as the third letter, most people finding it easier to think of instances of words beginning with k and therefore concluding that there are more words beginning with k, whereas in fact a typical long text contains twice as many words with k as the third letter. The heuristic was first identified in 1973 by the Israeli psychologists Amos Tversky (1937–96) and Daniel Kahneman (born 1934). See also illusory correlation, simulation heuristic.

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