top of page
  • Writer's pictureCris

The Psychology of Availability

How often do we argue with our partners because we believe they don't do as much as we do?

When we think of fatal incidents with transports, why do we think of train or plane disasters and not cars instead?

When we think of loyalty and affairs, why do we think that actors or performers are less loyal than the "normal" people?

The answer to all those questions is to attribute to what in psychology is called:

"Psychology of availability".

Our brain is not clever enough to distinguish what's real from what it experienced or encountered many times

For instance, let's say that during commuting between university and house, we came across several commercials explaining how driving a car is safer than riding a bike.

Months later, a friend of ours asks the following question: "What's safer? Riding a bike or driving a car?"

At this point, many mechanisms take place in our minds. Especially if we don't know the answer, our mind (which is lazy and doesn't want to overthink too much) starts going back into the past seeking something that can help give an immediate response

We have an answer that makes sense and is easy to retrieve. The commercials we read months ago! 



Likewise, that's why we think our partner does less than us; that's why we think planes and trains are less safe than cars (which is definitely not the case); or why we think performers are less loyal than others.

The reason is that we can easily answer all these questions just by digging into our shallow memories! We only remember what we did because we were involved in the first person; we only remember tragic disasters and performers' affairs because social media shows them often!

In "Thinking, Fast and Slow", Daniel Kahneman describes an experiment that illustrates this phenomenon. In a college newspaper, randomly on the first page, are written totally random (and incorrect) words. We can imagine words like "Jitya" or "Khvpo" showing up randomly within the text.

At the end of the month, the students are asked to recognise the "correct", Arabic (or some other foreign language), words from a list. Surprisingly, the students reported as "correct" the words that were more frequent in the newspaper during the past weeks.

They were more easily available!

The next time you think something is true; double-check your source of information. Is it really true, or is it just easy to reach by your brain?


Subscribe to the newsletter

Join to receive an email every Friday with the best citations I came across during the week!

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page