Heuristics

# A bat, a ball & mental shortcuts

I know it’s a Monday, but take a look at this quick question:

Bat and ball cost £1.10

If a bat and a ball cost £1.10 in total and the bat costs £1 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

Go on, give it another bash.

I’m sure at some stage of deliberating over that question, even if for the briefest moment, the answer of “10p” flitted across your mind. We spoke last week about System 1 (automatic) and System 2 (effortful) thinking. The “10p” answer is a perfect example of the lazy System 1 coming into play. It’s an answer that seems obvious, sounds about right and crucially requires very little effort to come to. In other words, it’s an answer that “satisfices“, something inbetween ‘satisfying’ and ‘sufficing’.

A lot of people would stop there and state that as the answer. “10p, mate.” Because stopping to apply a small amount of effort is, well, effortful and we don’t fancy that very much. The correct answer of course is 5p, which you would only know if you checked your answer – a characteristic of “effortful” or System 2 thinking. And we’re all subject to biases like these.

The mental shortcut that your mind took to arrive at the obvious, most effortless answer is an example of what we referred to last week as a ‘heuristic‘.

Tomorrow, I’ll be exploring something called the ‘effort heuristic’ and how being aware of it reflects news ways of displaying ‘value’ to customers in the marketing realm.

It also involves a plumber.