Tag Archives: Psychology

Mental Mistakes: The Availability Heuristic

This is the first part of a series on the topic of mental mistakes, thinking errors that we make on a daily basis. Read the others here.

How frequently would you guess car accidents occur?

To make this kind of judgement, you’re not going to try to count the number of car accidents you’ve seen over a 24 hour period then use some sort of complicated mental algorithm to expand that number into a general frequency. That would be mentally exhausting.

Instead, you’re going to use a shortcut. You’re going to make an educated guess, and more than likely, you’re going to be very wrong.

We make hundreds of mistakes like this on a daily basis, mistakes than can be attributed to mental biases or cognitive errors. Understanding them further can provide some insight into various aspects of our lives such as:

  • How the media shapes your perception of the world
  • Why you can’t accurately estimate the frequency of seven-letter words that have “n” in the sixth position

To understand these items and more, we have to take an insider look at one of the most common cognitive errors we make on a daily basis – the Availability Heuristic.

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What a Workout Does to Your Brain

I distinctly remember the sunrises during my senior year of high school. While my classmates were sleeping, I was on the roads racking up miles with my cross country team to avoid the Florida heat. We would hit the showers then shuffle off to class. At the time, I thought this was absolute torture. Getting up early in the morning was bad enough, but exercising on top of that?

That type of activity wouldn’t be anything new at Naperville High School in Naperville, IL. The school was profiled in the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain. Naperville encourages students to attend physical education classes and offers early morning options so they can get a workout in before the first bell. As one would expect, the students have a lower obesity rate, but they’re also seeing benefits in the classroom.

To improve mental performance, many individuals resort to hard work and repetition. In turns out, they might be missing out on one of the most powerful brain boosters in the world – exercise.

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