Retrievability bias

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We are better at retrieving some subjects from our memory than other things. Individuals base judgement on commonality and easier base strategies. For instance: due to relative ease of recalling words, we overestimate their frequency. We may remember more words that begin with letter “a” than that has “a” as a third letter.


Businesses use this strategy when locating retail stores within couple of blocks. To maximise traffic, the retailers need to be in the location that consumers got to when they search for a particular product or store. Consumers can learn the location of product or store and organise their minds accordingly.

Managers rely on social networks to identify potential of future employees. They use highly selective search and trust recommendations that come through people in a manager’s network. People in this group are more likely to be of similar background, culture and education as the manager himself. This results in low diversity and discrimination without conscious intention.


Retrievability bias shows the misuse of availability heuristics. This can lead to systematic errors in managerial judgement. We easily assume that our available recollections are truly representative of large pool of events that exist outside of our range of experience.

We need to recognise when intuition leads us away from correct actions so that we can avoid the pitfall of selecting most mentally available option.

Adapted from

Bazerman, M.H. and Moore, D.A., 1994. Judgment in managerial decision making (p. 226). New York: Wiley.

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