The Availability Bias

What’s more likely: death by shark attack, or death by lightning strike? The science suggests you’ll choose “shark attack”… but that’s not the right answer. So why do so many of us agree? It’s called the availability bias: our tendency to assume that events that come easily to mind must be more common or true.


Schwarz, N., Bless, H., Strack, F., Klumpp, G., Rittenauer-Schatka, H., & Simons, A. (1991). Ease of retrieval as information: another look at the availability heuristic. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61(2), 195-202.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive Psychology, 5(2), 207-232.

Noël, L., & Arscott, C. H. (2015). What Executives Need to Know About Millennial Women. ICEDR Special Report.


The Availability Bias was created and developed by Olivia Kang, Kirsten Morehouse, Theodora Mautz, and Mahzarin Banaji. Outsmarting Human Minds is supported by Harvard University, PwC, and Johnson & Johnson.

Narration by Olivia Kang, featuring Professor Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard University)

Sound Editing & Mixing by Evan Younger

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Artwork by Olivia Kang

Research Assistants: Theodora Mautz, Moshe Poliak