5 questions to guard against availability bias and made-up data

5652.stripThe cost of bad data is the illusion of knowledge – Stephen Hawking

What’s more likely to kill you? A shark or a hot water tap? We’ve all heard stories of killer sharks, but as yet Spielberg hasn’t made a thriller about killer plumbing. We reason based on the information most readily available to us. We assume that the risk of dying in a plane crash is greater than the risk of dying on our sofa because plane crashes are so much more dramatic. But we’re wrong.

This is the availability bias. We make decisions based on the most readily available information in the belief that because it’s readily available it’s more likely to be accurate. Sometimes the information we can draw to mind might be accurate, but sometimes it’s not. Ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s scary. We are often most terrified by the unknown. But if something feels familiar, no matter how bad it is, we can cope. We prefer erroneous information to no information at all.

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