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In an attempt to cope with the large amount of information and potential choices that we are presented with on a daily basis, we tend to rely on so-called “heuristics” (rules of thumb) that help guide our decision making.In essence, heuristics are decision-making tools that save effort by ignoring some information; and thus, their essential function is to reduce and simplify the processing of cues and information from our environment. In particular, prior research by Lenton and Francesconi suggests that when the number of potential speed-dating partners goes up, people tend to increasingly rely on heuristics in their decision making strategies.As a psychologist, I have always found the concept of speed dating fascinating.In fact, some years ago, I decided to try it myself.Gerd Gigerenzer recently summarized more than a decade of research concerning the role of heuristics in human decision making.Gigerenzer argues that heuristics aren’t a cognitive shortcoming at all.To illustrate, consider a popular heuristic that people often employ, the so-called “recognition heuristic.” The recognition heuristic states that “if one of two objects is recognized and the other is not then we should infer that the recognized object has the higher value.” Such a decision rule may sound overly simplistic but various studies have supported its use and effectiveness.
As you can imagine, I did not find the love of my life.Well, several experiments have shown that when shoppers are presented with either an extensive or limited amount of potential consumer choices (e.g.chocolates, jam flavors) more people actually end up making purchases, and are happier, when the choice environment only offers a limited set of options.Rather, the author postulates that over millions of years of human evolution, such “smart” and adaptive heuristics have successfully guided our decision making in various (uncertain) environments.In short, we use all kinds of heuristics on a daily basis and apparently we do so for a good reason.
In conclusion, when pressured for time and faced with many competing options, “fast and frugal” decision making can (potentially) enhance the quality of our decisions.