Psychology Chapter 10

Applying Psychology Principles to Choosing a College

What is My Concept of University

  • lots of work
  • new people
  • new culture
  • less class time
  • more challenging classes


What are heuristics?

Heuristics are simple, efficient rules, learned or hard-coded by evolutionary processes, that have been proposed to explain how people make decisions, come to judgments, and solve problems typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information.

How do we use them?

We can use them to make decisions based on past experiences and when we have a new experience and need to make a judgment, our brains use past memories of similar experiences.

Types of Heuristics

Availability Heuristic

What is it?

It is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person's mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision.

How does it apply?

I heard an ad for international student scholarships recently so when I was thinking of looking at scholarships that ad was one of the first things that came to mind.

Representative Heuristic

What is it?

When we have a new experience and need to make a judgment, our brains use past memories that seem similar to the current situation.

How does it apply?

When choosing a university, I might remember what my uncle did when he was picking a university and do the same things as him.

Obstacles to Problem Solving

What keeps us from figuring things out?
Some inhibitors to finding a solution are functional fixedness, irrelevant and/or misleading information, assumptions, and mental set.
What is functional fixedness?
It is a cognitive bias that limits a person to using an object only in the way it is traditionally used.
What about mental sets?
They are framework for thinking about a problem and can be shaped by habit or by desire, similar to using solutions that have worked in the past even though they might not necessarily be the best fit.
How can these things inhibit my decision-making?
By not keeping an open mind about things, you automatically rule out choices that could very well be great contenders. In choosing a university, you might automatically rule out going out of country because you assume it's not a good fit for you. But why? Sometimes out of country universities are the best option, especially with free tuition in certain countries and generous international student scholarships. Similarly, you might assume a university in-state is the best option because that's where all your friends are going and it's a common thing to do, even if it's not the best choice.


Confirmation Bias

What is it?

A tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories.

How does it apply?

If I'm worried about the workload, I might ask my uncle about how much work he had during university and since he is likely to say yes, it would confirm my theory that I will have a lot of work in university.

Belief Bias

What is it?

It is the tendency to judge the strength of arguments based on the plausibility of their conclusion rather than how strongly they support that conclusion.

Belief Perseverance

What is it?

It is the tendency to cling to one's initial belief even after receiving new information that contradicts or dis- confirms the basis of that belief.

How does it apply?

If I believe that ASU is a party school and I hear something about how there actually are not that many parties, I will probably still think ASU is a party school. Similarly, if I believe Yale is a good, prestigious university, yet hear that during a football game some of the students from Stanford were un-sportsman-like, I will probably still think Stanford is a good school.


What is it?

It is a well-established bias in which a person's subjective confidence in his or her judgments is reliably greater than the objective accuracy of those judgments, especially when confidence is relatively high.

How does it apply?

Typically, when estimating their future success in university, students will overestimate their success and do worse than they projected. I think I'll do fairly well in university, but that is probably not very accurate.

Compromises I've Made When Picking a University

  • distance vs. tuition cost
  • dorm size vs. campus aesthetic
  • tuition cost vs. program quality
  • in-state vs. out-of-state
  • in-country vs. out-of-country
  • scholarship availability vs. tuition cost
  • program availability vs. distance