The availability heuristic is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision. The availability heuristic operates on the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important, or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled.
Subsequently, under the availability heuristic people tend to heavily weigh their judgments toward more recent information, making new opinions biased toward that latest news.
The availability of consequences associated with an action is positively related to perceptions of the magnitude of the consequences of that action. In other words, the easier it is to recall the consequences of something the greater those consequences are often perceived to be. Most notably, people often rely on the content of their recall if its implications are not called into question by the difficulty that they experience in bringing the relevant material to mind.
The above text is retrieved from the Wikipedia article “Availability Heuristic“, which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License. Text available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.