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Anchoring focalism

The tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor", on one trait or piece of information when making decisions – usually the first piece of information that we acquire on that subject.


  • Judging the contents of a book by its cover.
  • Judging the strength of an argument by its conclusion.
  • The need to consider and understand the contents of a message purely on the basis of how and when it was delivered and/or who delivered it.
    • ie. 'If the courier is well dressed and the timing is right, then the message must be important' (and vice versa).

Unfortunately, perhaps due to the prior actions of others in your same social group, a deceptive frame of interpretation is more likely to be encountered first, effectively 'inoculating' everyone else in the group against an unbiased receipt of any further information.

Roughly parallel to the 'Identifiable Victim', particularly as an instantiation.

  - link Wikipedia:  Anchoring
  - an item on Forrest Landry's compiled list of biases in evaluating extinction risks.

Identifiable victim effect

The tendency to respond more strongly to a single identified person at risk than to a large group of people at risk.

This is parallel to the 'base rate fallacy', the 'normalcy bias', and 'scope insensitivity' effects.

It represents another attempt to substitute intuition (fast/easy) in place of real analysis (hard, abstract, and slow). 

It is an example of a compensatory effect wherein concrete and visible/identifiable specifics are treated in place of abstract concepts (the possibility of catastrophic events in the future, many aspects and follow on effects of which will be fully unknown – ie. via the 'Ambiguity effect')

Another way in which this effect has been observed to occur is when mentioning various x-risk concerns to intelligent peers. There is an immediate tendency for each one to consider the meaning of the concern in terms of their own lives only. Ie. how they would prefer to die, etc, usually with some element of obligatory moral fatalism included.

This is effect is ignoring the ethical considerations of the degree to which their own actions (or inaction) may be contributory to impacts on others, on other life, etc.

  - link Wikipedia:   Identifiable victim effect
  - an item on Forrest Landry's compiled list of biases in evaluating extinction risks.

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