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Availability Cascades

An availability cascade is a variation on the information cascade that we learned about in class. An availability cascade occurs when a relatively simple idea rapidly gains popularity due to its frequency of repetition in public discourse. To state this more simply, “repeat something enough times and it becomes true.” Availability cascades are usually caused by insights that tend to oversimplify a complex phenomenon in order to convey a point. The cascade is driven by the availability of the idea and the desire for social acceptance caused by modern social networking. For this reason, many public figures try to trigger availability cascades in order to popularize their agendas. This phenomenon shows that crowds can have the power to cause people to disregard their own thinking, and quickly adhere to hasty generalizations.

One example of an availability cascade occurred last winter. Last winter was very long, cold and snowy. Average temperatures were well below freezing in many parts of the country. Many politicians and reporters took this as an opportunity to promote their own agendas. They argued that global warming could not exist because of how cold it had been. Not only is this idea massively oversimplified, but it was being conveyed by figures with essentially no scientific background. Supporters of this opinion were most likely those who sought refuge in the falsification of global warming rather than those actually thought critically about the idea itself.

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