Why Everyone Knows a Healthy [Insert Unhealthy Behavior]

When talking about the topic of health, young people's opinions can be surprising irrational. What constitutes healthy behavior, will often have more to do with subjective experience and bias than objective evidence. So how can cognitive bias influence the topic of human health?

The Availability Heuristic

According to researchers, the Availability Heuristic is a cognitive bias in the interpretation of information whereby 'people use the ease with which examples can be brought to mind as a cue for estimating their probability.'
The Availability Heuristic can be observed in many every day health opinions, in particular those opinions based on personal associations instead of probable evidence. For example, when discussing smoking, a young person may use one strong family memory as probable evidence to justify an unhealthy choice (see tweet above).

Why Everyone Seems to Know a Healthy [Insert Unhealthy Behavior]

By applying the Availability Heuristic to the health opinions of young people, you can begin to understand how unhealthy behavior can become irrationally associated with positive health outcomes despite more probable evidence to the contrary (see tweet below).
1. Young people are less likely to have known those who have died from unhealthy behavior. As a result, memories associating unhealthy behavior with negative outcomes may be less easily available and judged as less probable.

2. Young people are more likely to have known those who have survived unhealthy behavior. As a result, memories associating unhealthy behavior with positive outcomes may be more easily available and judged as more probable.

Hence the reason why everyone seems to know a healthy [insert unhealthy behavior].

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