Heuristics: Shortcuts, Common Sense, and Profiling

These days we are bombarded by so much information that we literally can’t. We can’t consume it all, we can’t even derive meaning from all that we consume, and we can’t extract value from all of the meaning. So sometimes, rationale leaves us with only more complicated questions when it comes to how we should view the world. Our brain has developed tools for sorting through an abundance of information that is more efficient than raw processing, even filling in the blanks when we don’t have enough information to decide. Hte prat fo yuor biran taht le’st yuo mkae snese fo tish, is the part of your brain that tell you what do when a wild animal pops up on your trail. What might feel like anxiety is actually a shutting down of your rational mind, it is smart enough to know when to bow out. So it let’s your instinct and habit kick in. Actually 40% of your decisions are made without consideration. That leave a lot of extra capacity for your brain to deal with the right kinds of things, but it also leaves a lot of room for error.

The processes your brain employs to make the decision making easier when they come to simplification and relying on fundamental rules are called heuristics. These tools influence our prejudice, short cuts, and what we consider best practices. For some this results in funny saying like  “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, its probably a duck.” which is very helpful when identifying animals. For others it results in heuristics like “shoot first, ask questions later” and while this may be helpful in the pursuit of survival, it may not be helpful in the pursuit of justice.

Common sense also falls into the realm of heuristics and because of this it has a lot to do with the fundamentals of society. Expectations related to our behavior, appearance, and language all feed into our social norms to help us determine who a person is to us, what their motives might be, and what they are trying to communicate to us. This month we are going to be looking at the socialized heuristics that we use day to day, but we will also explore the constructs that are programmed into computers, and taught to children to better understand how and why our society works the way it does.


I invite you to join us, but pardon us if we skip a head, its just more efficient that way.


Maceo Paisley,



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