Friday, July 01, 2011

The Availability Heuristic & The Homeless

“Search your memory for the homeless people you saw most recently. What were they like? The unobtrusive homeless person is easily forgotten. We tend to remember the person who sings on the bus, who intrudes on passersby, who is drunk, or is obviously high on some drug. Moreover, we prepare ourselves to behave in certain ways if such a person approaches us, such preparation being exactly the type of ancillary event…that enhances recall of the event leading to it. Hence our view of ‘the homeless’ is based on the memorable homeless, people whose emotional and physical debilitation is so severe that it suggests that poverty alone cannot be the cause of their problems.” [Yet the fact remains that the ‘vast majority of the homeless are poor, just plain poor.’]—Reid Hastie and Robyn M. Dawes, Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making (2001): 87.


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