To do or not to do: That’s Heuristics!

Published 19 Dec 2016

Opening Statement: When faced with new situations for which coping with skills at problem-solving is badly in need, we frequently use the simple rule-of the-thumb strategies called heuristics. All of us have a repertoire of these strategies based on the bits of knowledge we have picked up, rules we have learned, or sorts of hypotheses that have worked for us in the past. As defined from Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia, heuristics is a sudden and perhaps, replicable approach people used in learning, discovery and problem-solving. Through the use of this approach, it enable us to make a reasonable snap judgment, providing a highly efficient but occasionally misleading guides for making quick decisions and forming intuitive judgments.

To see how heuristics determine our judgment—and how they can lead us off track, we will consider the situation of whether to accept or not accept an over-qualified applicant to be a new marketing manager, knowing that the said candidate worked in a similar position with a competitor for the past 20 years. No matter how pleased you are with her credentials, however, the other manager thinks that he or she doesn’t fit in the position and doesn’t want to discuss his reasons further.

More often than not, the error of the co-manager stems from his use of availability heuristic, which leads him to base his judgment on the availability of information in his memories. This happens when a person tend to presume that the event is commonplace, which means that perhaps the co-manager’s reason of not hiring a well-qualified applicant lies in the fact that he or she came from a competitor for a long time. Why? There are numerous possible causes and consequences that may affect not only the company itself, but also the workers within the said company. Indeed, we can only assume that maybe, with the knowledge of knowing the applicant was from the competitor, the co-manager thinks that the competing company, where the applicant had worked has a problem with their administrative system and/or there is something wrong with the applicant himself.

Possibly, the co-manager thinks it is more with the applicant because he refused to hire him. The co-manager believes that the applicant himself is not competitive enough to his previous position, demands a higher salary, unsatisfied with the previous company, and lastly assumes that the applicant doesn’t have the concept of loyalty to his workplace, basing on the grounds that after 20 long years the applicant decided to apply with another company. Thus, the same thing will possibly happen if their company fails to meet the personal or monetary satisfaction of the applicant.

This fallacy shows that the co-manager believes that the combining the events like working long years of the applicant in an almost similar company and the same marketing position, there is a higher tendency that the interviewee would seek another competitor and apply for a job. Known as conjunctive fallacy, this kind of belief affects the view and perspective of the co-manager causing a dilemma about the right choice to make or the right perspective to choose. In addition, in a presentation of Heuristics and Biases: Why Do Dumb People Do Smart Things, conjunctive fallacy is reiterated as “overestimated”. Had the applicant came from a non-competitor with a different position, would the co-manger responded differently? Maybe yes, maybe no.

The judgmental errors caused by the availability heuristic are usually harmless, but occasionally they are not. The tendencies to seek confirmation of one’s own hypotheses and to use easy heuristics sometimes blind the people to vulnerability to error. As important decisions involve judgment of risk, the co-manager’s social judgment is obviously affected by his overconfidence that similar thing will happen to the company. It can be advantageous and harmless to the company if the judgment is true for the applicant, but may be harmful and dangerous for the company in such a way that the company will lose the chance to hire a more competitive and more credible worker than what they had before. Similarly, it is truly unethical for an objective, competing corporation to use biases in decision-making which in a long term basis, can affect the over-all system of the group.

After discussing the ambiguity of judgment of the co-manager and implications it may impose with the company, what then could be done to solve the problem? Making sound decisions can only be achieved when proper evaluation of the problem is done. As mentioned in Myer’s book, Psychology, psychologist Wheeler and Irving Janis recommended stages in doing a wise decision. Parts of the stages are setting for goals, ways to achieve them, and search for alternatives for the probable solution to the problem. To address the problem in hiring the applicant, managers of the company should have a brief evaluation on the pros and cons, enumerating what would be the losses and gains for the company. Reviewing the goals of the company will be helpful too. And lastly, anticipating the difficulties of their decision will be enough justifiable reason to prepare an alternative on how to deal with the anticipated problem.

Conclusion: Rule-of-the-thumb heuristics is useful in the sense that they should be used properly with the right interpretation and understanding of these concepts and fallacies. With the proper understanding on how to recognize fallacies and exercise the ability to do the right decision rather than following intuition, it is expected that decision-making would be easier, more accurate and more efficient than before. Although people seldom or even never change their own belief, it is very important that these beliefs that are formed and justified, to take a more compelling evidence to change them that it did to create them. Fallacies don’t always guarantee a great solution to problems. More often than not, it is being used unintentionally and unexpectedly.


  • Myers, D. G. (1986). Psychology. (1st ed.). New York: Worth Publishers, Inc.
  • Sunstein, C. R. (2004). Moral Heuritics. Behavioral and Brain Sciences Retrieved July 18, 2007
  • Heuristics. (July 2007). Wikipedia: free encyclopedia. Retrieved July 18, 2007 from
  • Brown. Heuristics and Biases: Why do dumb people do smart things…and vice versa. (2003). Powerpoint Presentation. Retrieved July 18, 2007 from
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