Affect Heuristics Essay

853 words - 4 pages

People encounter decision making and problem solving situations in every aspect of their lives, from cooking dinner to working on a project, from getting ready for a party to buying a new house, from gambling to exercising at the gym etc. They make use of ‘affect’ or emotional response, whenever such situations emerge. ‘Affect heuristic’ is a mental shortcut or a ‘rule of thumb’ that we use to make an instantaneous decision or judgement based on our present emotion. It saves time but can also lead to errors. People make decisions,usually without any further thinking and evaluation, about the goodness or badness of an act, object, person, event or situation. There may be more pros than cons to affect heuristics. However, the unexpected disadvantages of inaccurate heuristics are more alarming and detrimental when applied in the wrong situations.

People make judgements based on the negative and positive feelings that they associate with a stimulus. Finucane, Alhakami, Slovic, & Johnson (2000) claimed that affective sensitivities play a significant role in making risk/benefit judgements. Participants evaluated situations differently when presented information either about a possible benefit or a possible risk of nuclear power plants. When information indicating high benefit was presented, they inferred low risk (positive affect) and when high risk information content was presented, low benefit was perceived (negative affect). Similarly, when information indicating low benefit was presented, they inferred high risk (negative affect) and when low risk information content was presented, high benefit was perceived (positive affect) (Finucane et al.,2000).

We make many mistakes in emotionally based judgements because our feelings get in the way of our rational and logical thinking (Slovic et al., 2002). We make risk predictions based on how devastating something seems to be rather that on the frequency or probability of that event. A death count of 1286 people out of every 10,000 seems more disturbing than a death rate of 24.14%. (Yamagishi, 1997). This shows that people incorrectly judge the likelihood of an event to be higher when presented in large numbers than in smaller numbers (Denes-Raj et al., 1993).

We consult our affective feelings unconsciously, naturally, automatically and uncontrollably when making judgements and decisions. Hence, there are several examples of efforts of manipulation of our affect in our daily lives. Shiv and Fedorikhin (1999) demonstrated that cognition (processing resources) and affect heuristics both influence consumer making decisions. Experimental subjects were given the opportunity to choose between two choices, either chocolate cake which represented a more affect than cognitive choice or fruit salad which was associated with more cognition than...

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