The effect of task characteristics on the availability heuristic for judgments under uncertainty
Howell, William C.
Master of Arts
The present study sought to generalize the effect of the availability heuristic to more complex tasks and across various task categories. The experimental design involved the manipulation of event characteristics in order to induce a heuristic processing strategy for designated available events. The effect of these manipulations was investigated for three types of response measures and across a range of event frequencies. Results demonstrated the generalizability of the availability heuristic across complex tasks and three types of response measures -- frequency estimation, probability estimation, and choice predictions. The availability of an event in memory produced an overestimation of the frequency and probability of event occurrences. Similarly, choice predictions judged available events as more likely to occur. However, this effect was not consistent across all levels of assigned event frequencies. The present study extended the generalizability of the availability heuristic to more complex tasks and provided an exploratory step toward defining the degree to which basic findings hold across a range of task characteristics.