The availability heuristic

This cognitive crinkle, discussed in today’s column, also casts light on the crime victims who appear before the council.

They deserve sympathy, respect and a government response to their concerns. But because they are crime victims, and crime looms so large in their thinking, they probably over-estimate the probability that they will be victims of crime again. Or so studies show. The council has to factor that in when deciding the proper response.

Which is not to say some of them don’t have the threat assessment just right. Some neighborhoods are indeed hot spots. The probability of again being a crime victim may be exactly as high as they think it is. In general, though, a broader view is necessary to get right the amount of resources it is necessary to devote to crime.


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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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