Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 457–464 | Cite as

Reexamining our bias against heuristics

  • Kevin McLaughlinEmail author
  • Kevin W. Eva
  • Geoff R. Norman


Using heuristics offers several cognitive advantages, such as increased speed and reduced effort when making decisions, in addition to allowing us to make decision in situations where missing data do not allow for formal reasoning. But the traditional view of heuristics is that they trade accuracy for efficiency. Here the authors discuss sources of bias in the literature implicating the use of heuristics in diagnostic error and highlight the fact that there are also data suggesting that under certain circumstances using heuristics may lead to better decisions that formal analysis. They suggest that diagnostic error is frequently misattributed to the use of heuristics and propose an alternative view whereby content knowledge is the root cause of diagnostic performance and heuristics lie on the causal pathway between knowledge and diagnostic error or success.


Diagnostic Performance Task Difficulty Causal Pathway Diagnostic Error Hindsight Bias 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin McLaughlin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kevin W. Eva
    • 2
  • Geoff R. Norman
    • 3
  1. 1.Office of Undergraduate Medical Education, Health Sciences CentreUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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