What are

Heuristics are mental short cuts or ‘rules of thumb’ that allow people to make quick, ‘good enough’ decisions rather than make perfect ones after weighing up all available evidence.

Mental shortcuts make it difficult to research the decision-making process. This is because, if you ask consumers to think about all the constituent parts of a decision you by definition destroy the rule-of-thumb way they really make decisions, i.e. they start consciously trading-off all the constituent parts rather than taking the unconscious, holistic overview they normally do.

It’s worth remembering that consumers are often unaware of the ‘rule of thumb’ way they make decisions. This means they often give surprisingly inaccurate accounts of concepts such as ‘what’s important to them’, ‘why they bought the item they did’ or even ‘why they like a certain brand’.

Driver analysis can be useful in unpicking ‘rule of thumb’ thinking. This uses statistical modelling to see what really influences what consumers think or the way they behave.

What are Heuristics?