Heuristics

The study of induction spans a variety of methods and topics. In this article, most of the consideration of induction involves cases in which people rely on heuristics in their reasoning. Heuristics involve "rules of thumb" that yield "ballpark" solutions that are approximately correct and can be applied across a wide range of problems.

One common heuristic is representativeness, which is invoked in answering the following questions: What is the probability that object A belongs to class B, event A originates from process B, or that process B will generate event A? The representativeness heuristic suggests that probabilities are evaluated by the degree to which A is representative of B, that is, by the degree to which A resembles B. If A is representative of B, the probability that A originates from B is judged to be high; if A does not resemble B or is not similar to B, the probability that A originates from B is judged to be low.

A second heuristic is availability, which is invoked in judgments of frequency. Specifically, people assess the frequency of a class by the ease with which instances of that class can be brought to mind. Factors that influence the ability to think of instances of a class, such as recency, salience, number of associations, and so forth, influence availability in such a way that certain types of events (such as recent and salient) are more available. For example, if several people one knows have been involved in car crashes recently, one's subjective probability of being in a car crash is increased.

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