Media literacy

Jan Splaining: What is availability bias? – MEDIA LITERACY

Jan Fran

Availability bias. It is a mental shortcut by which we judge the likelihood of something happening based on how easily we remember when that thing happens. For example, hypothetically, we can judge the likelihood of us getting a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on how easily we remember a story of someone getting a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine, that is to say

[OVERLAY OF NEWS FOOTAGE] blood clots, blood clots, blood clots, blood clot …

Jan Fran


Now blood clots are happening, but they are very rare. The disproportionate media coverage they receive, however, can help keep them in mind. Consider that these 132 Australians developed blood clots related to the AZ jab, nine of which died. In those publications alone, more than 3,000 articles mentioned AstraZeneca and blood clots in the past six months. Meanwhile, 40,000 people are hospitalized each year for injuries caused by traffic accidents. If these injuries received the same coverage ratio, we would see nearly a million articles per year on traffic accidents. That’s over two thousand five hundred a day. If we applied the availability bias here, we would easily remember the harmful effects of driving, which can make people hesitate to drive.

We can’t always control how the media covers a certain issue, but we can control how we treat it. The first step is to identify the bias and determine that it may distort our perception of risk. Step two, deliberately look for statistics that will give you a clearer picture of reality.

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