Heuristics and political elites' judgment and decision making

B. Vis

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is broadly assumed that political elites (e.g. party leaders) regularly rely on heuristics in their judgments or decision-making. In this article, I aim to bring together and discuss the scattered literature on this topic. To address the current conceptual unclarity, I discuss two traditions on heuristics: (1) the heuristics and biases (H&B) tradition pioneered by Kahneman and Tversky and (2) the fast and frugal heuristics (F&F) tradition pioneered by Gigerenzer et al. I propose to concentrate on two well-defined heuristics from the H&B tradition—availability and representativeness—to empirically assess when political elites rely on heuristics and thereby understand better their judgments and decisions. My review of existing studies supports the notion that political elites use the availability heuristic and possibly the representativeness one for making complex decisions under uncertainty. It also reveals that besides this, we still know relatively little about when political elites use which heuristic and with what effect(s). Therefore, I end by proposing an agenda for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalPolitical Studies Review
Issue number1
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: B.V.’s work is funded by a VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO, grant no. 452-11-005).

FundersFunder number
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek452-11-005


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