When making decisions or judgments we are able to use these mental shortcuts known as heuristics. Heuristics can be described as a rule of thumb or speedier ways in which to make decisions. When making a judgement or decision we do not always have the time or resources to shuffle through all the information. Heuristics allow for us to reach decisions as quickly and efficiently as possible. A Representative Heuristic can be described as making a decision or judgement based on the likelihood in terms of how well an object/person represents or matches a particular prototype. This may lead to individuals ignoring other relevant information about the object or person.
In Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman’s study of this idea of heuristics, they found that “people typically rely on the representativeness heuristic, in which probabilities are evaluated by the degree to which A is representative of B, that is, by the degree to which A resembles B.” (Amos) Through studies they found that when people tend to use probability when evaluating representativeness, previous probabilities will be neglected (Amos). Through evidence and research both men discovered how and why we tend to use heuristics.
In the hit Disney Channel show Hannah Montana. Miley Cyrus is a small town girl from Tennessee, who moves to Malibu California to pursue her dreams of being a pop star. Although, Miley wanted to grow up as a normal girl and keep her fame a secret so she came up with a secret identity, Hannah Montana. While in school no one thought she was a pop star, even in the beginning of the show Miley’s best friends had no clue that she was Hannah Montana. One could say that it was right in front of their faces but Miley tried everything in her power to keep this secret away from her friends. Though, one could say that by her obvious lack of attendance at certain school dances, as well as her absence at Hannah Montana concerts that her friends would always go to, indicate that she may be living some sort of double life which is information being neglected. Though, it can be said that the reasons that Miley’s friends and enemies within the show were not aware of her being Hannah Montana was due to this idea of a Representative Heuristic.
Representative heuristics can play a role in the assessments that we make of other people (Cherry).We tend to make expectations about how people in certain roles ought to behave. A pop star may be seen as an individual that is into the glitz and glam in life, super popular, and just overall doing better than others. And in Miley’s case she was just your everyday teenager when she wasn’t on stage as Hannah Montana. So it isn’t a surprise to see that people were not aware of her secret fame. Individuals did not perceive her as a pop star, nor popular at all, she was bullied a bit within the show as well by her so called “enemies”. And in a few episodes when people would catch onto Miley’s mysterious behavior and begin to believe that she was truly Hannah Montana, they would always decide later on that, that wasn’t true because Miley was too “normal” to truly be Hannah Montana. Relating back to Amos and Daniel’s study, A-Miley- did not resemble B-pop star- to people that surrounded Miley.
I believe that we tend to use Heuristics in our daily lives often. Relating things back to prototypes in order to identify them quickly and efficiently. Amos and Daniel’s study showed clear and concise evidence on the Representative Heuristic. It is interesting to be able to go back and look at such a loved childhood show, and reduce it down to everyone not knowing Miley was Hannah because of Representative Heuristics. Though, I can’t say I agree with characters in the show saying “oh Miley could never be Hannah, she doesn’t even look like her.”. Miley put on a blonde wig and walked out onto stage and suddenly became a completely different person? Interesting.
Amos Tversky; Daniel Kahneman Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4157. (Sep. 27, 1974), pp.
Cherry, Kendra. “How Representativeness Heuristic Influences the Decisions You Make.”
Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 6 May 2019,