Study Habits In College How Can I Get Better Grades

Solo Outlines Basic Heuristics Applied To College Students

Study Habits In CollegeA Heuristic is defined as a mental shortcut. People usually use a heuristic when they are busy or uninformed and they lead to events such as impulse buying. This is known as taking a peripheral route. When people know more about a topic they will take a central route and involves taking conscious and unproblematic thought processes. College campuses all over the Nation and world are perfect places for heuristics to take place. Everything that a college student is involved in will have one or many heuristics at work. I am going to outline some very real-life yet comical or interesting views about college campuses and heuristics at work.

First, everyone needs to understand that there are three different types of Heuristics: social influence or compliance, prediction, and persuasion.

the first scenario I want to cover deals with conformity and social influence heuristics. College students are always looking for a new way to fit in and meet new people. One common heuristic at work is the social proof heuristic. An applied definition for a college setting includes doing or participating in anything that anyone or so called "everyone" is doing. To simply state that everyone drinks at a college is a great example, and in reality some students stay very far away from the party scene altogether.

The Liking heuristic implies that people generally say yes to people they know and like. If Sara Palin came to a campus and told students that she is a "maverick" and is going out of her way to visit student bodies, many of the students are going to be more likely to vote for her simply because the she "likes them." They also may be prone to vote for her because she likes to go by the name Maverick sometimes.

Other social influence heuristics include:

Reciprocation- Thinking that you need to give back or reciprocate an event or favor just because someone did a perceived favor for you. Usually, this will occur without being asked to do so in return. If John picks up Heather from a parking lot, Heather may feel the need to "reciprocate" the favor some other time, even if she is not asked to do so.

Scarcity- The idea that when you hear an object is in low supply or scarce and you need to act quickly and purchase or take action on that object simply because it is in low supply or scare. A great example of this is infomercials. Infomercials generally appeal to college students because of the late night airings and the commonality of the "Hurry, while supplies last!" sales tactics. The slogan is then in-turn supposed to influence you to buy a product, and in reality that supply may not be limited at all.

Commitment & Consistency- The idea of obligation or commitment to follow through with an object/plan/person and once committed, people tend to stay constant with their commitment until the scenario is finalized. Text books are necessities for college students. If a book salesman starts out by offering a sale price on a book the college student will usually bite. When the salesman starts offering other incentives the already committed student is likely to buy other worthless incentives simply because they are committed to purchasing the book even if they do not need the incentives. This is commonly known as the "foot in the door" method. Car salesmen are notorious for using this tactic.

Authority Influence - Just as the heuristic states, people will take serious information from a person that appears to be an authority figure. Simply wearing a white coat does not mean someone is very knowledgeable on a certain topic. Many students are required to have lab coats for classes that have labs, and he or she may in fact be a terrible student with very little truthful information.

The next group of heuristics includes prediction heuristics. This group of heuristics involves people using mental shortcuts to make a decision or purchase an object without having proper knowledge.

A very real life and scary scenario that a heuristic can apply to involves college students and suicide. The availability heuristic is defined as making a decision or taking action based on the knowledge that someone has previously acquired. If a student has the idea that suicide is very common and solves a lot of problems, he or she may be tempted to commit suicide. According to Allan J. Schwartz's article in the Journal of American College Health, "Four Eras of Study of College Student Suicide in the United States: 1920-2004, " suicide rates have gone up. With just this knowledge, you may be inclined to say that suicide is getting more popular, but in actuality Schwartz's article is thirteen pages long and details college suicide trends in great detail. Keywords for the article include: "college students, firearms, high-risk groups, prevention, public health model, and suicide" (Schwartz ).

Anchoring and Adjusting is another prediction heuristic that is very commonly used. A basic definition is that people have their mind's set (anchor) and alter their mindset (adjusting, either positively or negatively) based on further evidence. Another real life and potentially scary example of this heuristic put into a college context involves the ADHD drug Adderall. This is commonly being considered the drug of choice for many students. It is not a secret, I see and hear students talking about needing, wanting, and taking Adderall on an almost daily basis. When a student needs to stay awake and focus on a certain task, they can pop a little pill and get cocaine-like effects. So for example, Bill heard that Adderall will help him with his exam from one of his friends last week. Later in the week, Bill has a lecture in a chemistry class that talks about the symptoms and dangers of Adderall. When Bill is offered to buy some Adderall he withdraws his anchor and refuses to take any Adderall because his chemistry lecture adjusted his perceptions about the ADHD drug.

The last two persuasion heuristics (representativeness and simulation) I am going to form into one. The representativeness heuristic is defined as evaluating something or someone based on something or someone of similar resemblance. The simulation heuristic involves someone making predictions based on cognitive reasoning with the ease of simulating an event in one's mind. An example of these two combined could involve students joining organizations. For example, Jessica is interested in getting more active on campus. Her friends joined a leadership program and they always talk about how good it is going to look when they apply for jobs. Jessica decides to join an honor society program with the hopes that this organization will also look good for when she applies for a job. At the same time, Jessica may be forming a simulation. She is seeing in her mind that she can just join the organization and once she is a member she can go out and party but when it comes to applying for a job she can state that she is in an honor society. I see this happen all the time at college. I find it very offensive and ultimately rude and crude.

To start off with a bang for persuasion heuristics, I am going to talk about politics again on a college campus.

The likening-agreement heuristic is a huge heuristic on many college campuses. A very noticeable example of this is the current presidential election. Students, of any age or race, can identify and relate to Barack Obama. The likening-agreement heuristic simply states that people like and agree with people that claim to like them. Obama is definitely reaching out to college students and a simple quote about such variables as "lowering college tuition" from Obama can swing huge numbers of students just because they feel Obama likes and cares about them.

The length-implies-strength heuristic simply means that if something is lengthy and long with lots of facts then it is more than likely truthful. As I came back to my room from an organization meeting today I was targeted by this heuristic. On my door was hanging a pamphlet for McCain and Palin. When I opened it I was bombarded by enlarged subheadings with rather lengthy paragraphs detailing each subheading. As I read some of the pamphlet I got facts but where exactly did these facts come from? I may be leaning towards being a McCain fan but this pamphlet is just not going to do it for me.

Consensus-implies-correctness heuristic simply means that people are persuaded to conform based on the idea that it is the correct position to take. A positive relation to college could involve students study habits. For example, If a statistic was released and it said, "students do 60 percent better on tests if they study in the library for two hours the day before a test, " it may be found that students are swayed to also start studying in the library. This is a very radical example but I mention it because I personally cherish quiet study sessions in the library. Some people never step foot into the library unless they absolutely need to but that may be a more personal issue.

The last heuristic I am going to mention is the experts-can-be-trusted heuristic. It is similar to the authority heuristic but involves persuasion. If a person is considered an expert, then people normally trust them. A college relevant example could include a professor. I have had professors that are absolutely radical. This heuristic states that I should trust them because they are experts. Honestly, I have met "experts" that I would never trust with anything.

With all of these heuristics being mentioned, I want to make it clear that in consumer psychology these heuristics are very commonly used but they can easily be applied to everyday life.

Schwartz, A. (2006, May). Four Eras of Study of College Student Suicide in the United States: 1920-2004. Journal of American College Health, 54(6), 353-366. Retrieved November 4, 2008, doi:10.3200/JACH.54.6.353-366

By Solo Maverick - Psych Major with Hr minor. I enjoy writing and being creative. First published poem netted me a grand ;) It is called: just a hardcover  

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