The beauty of heuristics is that they are abstractions that help us understand sets of information, and tell us where to put that information, or what actions to take.

Heuristics are mental shortcuts that let us be lazy.

This can be extremely useful.

We’re inundated with data and decisions each day— we need abstractions to make sense of it all and to take action quickly.

However, when the premise of a heuristic is faulty or out of date, it can lead us down the wrong path.

A quick example is authority bias and the halo effect.

The halo effect is a cognitive bias in which our impression of a person characterizes how we feel about their traits.

The logic:

We make false attributions about people we think are attractive, popular, tall, strong, etc.

We assume people with these positive attributes have high social status.

We assume people with high social status are successful.

We assume that successful people make good decisions.

We assume that if we make the same decisions as successful people, we will also be successful.

The heuristic:

Do what the cool kids are doing.

Choosing to base your actions on the decisions of people you deem successful is a heuristic, but the shortcut is only as good as the thought process behind it.

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