Affect Heuristic

heuristic affect

Explained: This is Affect Heuristic

When it comes to making decisions, we often rely on our gut feelings. This is because relying on our intuition allows us to make quick decisions without spending time analyzing all the possible options. However, research has shown that our intuition can sometimes lead us astray, especially when making judgments about people or things. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the affect heuristic, which is a cognitive shortcut that we often use when making judgments about things.

4 Examples of How Affect Heuristic Works in People’s Brains

Here are some examples of how affect heuristic plays out in our lives.

Risk Assessment

For example, consider that people tend to be more afraid of dying in an accident involving nuclear power than dying in an accident involving conventional sources of energy like coal. Statistically speaking, conventional sources like coal pose more significant risks for causing fatalities.

Another example is when people believe that flying is more dangerous than driving. However, this is not the case, as driving is deadlier than flying, according to statistics.

Job Interviews

Affect heuristic can also play a role in the job market, which is particularly problematic when it comes to hiring decisions. When assessing candidates for a position, people tend to rely heavily on their feelings or impressions of the candidate during an interview because their gut instincts lead them to believe that they have a better understanding of the candidate compared to facts presented about the candidate. However, research has shown that this is often not true.


It can also play a role in the realm of professional sports. A good example is when sports fans react negatively when their team trades away an athlete they like. This is might be a better move for the team.

Response to Advertisements

It is also seen in how people respond to particular advertisements. When Apple first introduced ads for the iPhone 5C, which was seen as less innovative than the iPhone 5S, its sales were lower than expected. However, when they introduced ads emphasizing how fun the phone was to use, this led to increased demand for it.

How to Overcome the Influence of Affect Heuristic

Let’s explore a few ways to overcome the influence of the affect heuristic and make better decisions.

Stay Rational

One way to overcome the effects of the affect heuristic is to remain rational when deciding by focusing more on reliable facts instead of feelings or gut instincts. For instance, an example of how this might look in practice is to recall times when you were wrong in the past and consider whether this might be true again.

Stay away from Overly Emotional Situations

Always avoid overly emotional situations since emotions can often cloud your judgment and affect your ability to make rational decisions. For example, someone who has an irrational fear of flying might only overcome this by simply avoiding air travel altogether.

Find ways to Reduce Cognitive Load

You also need to reduce your cognitive load, which means that you need to limit the amount of mental energy required for a particular task. This ensures that it doesn’t overwhelm your cognitive capabilities and affect the quality of your decision making.

Think about Multiple Possibilities

Instead of only one option, you need to think of different possibilities. In any situation, always remember that you have other options. According to research, we tend to use our first reaction when it comes to solving problems or making decisions. For instance, instead of advertising for a single product, think about how it might be used for multiple products.

Minimize Decision Fatigue

Another way to overcome the effects of the affect heuristic is to minimize decision fatigue, which refers to the tendency for your judgment and decision making abilities to progressively worsen as you make more decisions throughout the day. One way to reduce this is to make fewer decisions, for instance, by setting up your internet browser to open certain websites when you start it up.


If you find that poor decisions are getting in the way of your life, then it might be time to take a step back and re-evaluate where your life is headed. One good place to start is by learning more about the affect heuristic. By being aware of how this can influence decision making, you can better understand why these mistakes occur and hopefully learn how to avoid them in the future better.

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