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date: 18 February 2020

representativeness heuristic

A Dictionary of Psychology

Andrew M. Colman

representativeness heuristic n. 

A cognitive heuristic through which people estimate the probability that A belongs to (or originates from) a particular class B by judging the degree to which A is representative or typical of B. It can lead to errors of judgement because it ignores prior probabilities (1) and can thus cause people to commit the base-rate fallacy, and if it is used to estimate the probability of obtaining a particular value in a sample drawn from a known population, then it is insensitive to information about the sample size and may therefore cause people to commit the sample size fallacy. See also conjunction fallacy, non-regressiveness bias, regression fallacy.