Heuristics in “nudge” theory overview

1. Anchoring and adjustment

Using known facts and adjusting them to estimate or decide something which is unknown.

2. Familiarity

The more familiar something is, the more frequently, it is used/communicated. A misplaced sense of trust may be developed in behaving in a particular way, as well as a belief that this behaviour is valid. This heuristic is influenced by advertising and mass media.

3. Similarity

People make heuristic assumptions on the basis of perceived similarities to stereotypes.

4. Over-optimism

People tend to under-estimate costs, timescales, and challenges, and to over-estimate rewards and the ease of dealing with unknown things.

5. Loss aversion

The tendency for people to value possessions more than potential possessions―this creates inertia to making changes. Irrationally, people do not like to lose possession of things, irrespective of their actual value/importance. (The assumptions in Kahneman and Tversky Prospect Theory are set out below this table).

6. Status quo bias

People prefer the status quo and fear changing to the unknown. Status quo bias is also caused by heuristic aversion to complexity.

7. Framing

Framing is an individual’s method of heuristically understanding reality. It can therefore include many ways of distorting the attractiveness/unattractiveness of something.

8. Temptation

Generally people are naturally biased towards preferring short-term rewards rather than long-term rewards.

9. Thoughtlessness

Often people tend to form views and make decisions heuristically without concentrating. This can mean they can miss making important decisions.

10. Conforming with the population

People have the need for affirmation, and wish to avoid risk or embarrassment. Cultural factors add to these effects.

12. Self spotlight effect

People tend to over-estimate the significance of their own decisions and actions, and how others view them. This can influence decision-making.

13. Choice architecture

This major area overlaps several individual heuristics, and refers to the degree to which something is designed to help people understand and make the best response to it. For example, green usually means “go” and red means “stop”.