Memory and Probability
77 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021
Date Written: September 2021
People often estimate probabilities, such as the likelihood that an insurable risk will materialize or that an Irish person has red hair, by retrieving experiences from memory. We present a model of this process based on two established regularities of selective recall: similarity and interference. The model accounts for and reconciles a variety of conflicting empirical findings, such as overestimation of unlikely events when these are cued vs. neglect of non-cued ones, the availability heuristic, the representativeness heuristic, as well as over vs. underreaction to information in different situations. The model makes new predictions on how the content of a hypothesis (not just its objective probability) affects probability assessments by shaping the ease of recall. We experimentally evaluate these predictions and find strong experimental support.
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