Fluency Heuristic: A Model of How the Mind Exploits a By-Product of Information Retrieval

Ralph Hertwig, Stefan M. Herzog, Lael J. Schooler, Torsten Reimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Boundedly rational heuristics for inference can be surprisingly accurate and frugal for several reasons. They can exploit environmental structures, co-opt complex capacities, and elude effortful search by exploiting information that automatically arrives on the mental stage. The fluency heuristic is a prime example of a heuristic that makes the most of an automatic by-product of retrieval from memory, namely, retrieval fluency. In 4 experiments, the authors show that retrieval fluency can be a proxy for real-world quantities, that people can discriminate between two objects' retrieval fluencies, and that people's inferences are in line with the fluency heuristic (in particular fast inferences) and with experimentally manipulated fluency. The authors conclude that the fluency heuristic may be one tool in the mind's repertoire of strategies that artfully probes memory for encapsulated frequency information that can veridically reflect statistical regularities in the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1191-1206
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • ACT-R
  • ecological rationality
  • fluency
  • fluency heuristic
  • recognition heuristic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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