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9.1: Representativeness

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    Humans pay particular attention to stimuli that are salient—things that are unique, negative, colorful, bright, and moving. In many cases, we base our judgments on information that seems to represent, or match, what we expect will happen. When we do so, we are using the representativeness heuristic.

    Cognitive accessibility refers to the extent to which knowledge is activated in memory and thus likely to be used to guide our reactions to others. The tendency to overuse accessible social constructs can lead to errors in judgment, such as the availability heuristic and the false consensus bias. Counterfactual thinking about what might have happened and the tendency to anchor on an initial construct and not adjust sufficiently from it are also influenced by cognitive accessibility.

    You can use your understanding of social cognition to better understand how you think accurately—but also sometimes inaccurately—about yourself and others.

    This page titled 9.1: Representativeness is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mehgan Andrade and Neil Walker.

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