The Analysis of Heuristics in the Cognitive Process of Catholic High School Selection
Research about the cognitive process that a parent uses in selecting a high school for their child could help increase Catholic school enrollment, which would serve the dual purpose of evangelizing more students and providing increased financial stability through higher tuition revenue. Heuristics, shortcuts the brain uses to make difficult decisions, provide insight into this cognitive process of high school selection. The affect heuristic suggests that a person makes a judgment based upon emotion, the availability heuristic occurs when someone makes a judgment based upon the ease of recall of information, and the representativeness heuristic is used when a judgment is based upon the degree to which a sample is thought to share characteristics of the parent population. The purpose of the study is to determine the extent to which parents use the affect, availability, and representativeness heuristics in forming opinions about Catholic schools and making decisions about sending their children to a Catholic high school. Two surveys were crafted to analyze this problem. In the first survey, 465 parents of 7th and 8th graders at Catholic elementary schools responded to four stimuli that tested for the affect, availability, and representativeness heuristics. In the second survey, 187 parents of applicants at a Catholic high school answered questions about the various sources of information for learning about a school. Chi-Square analysis, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients, and regression analysis were used to analyze the data from both instruments. The results suggest that parents use some combination of the affect, availability, and representativeness heuristics when forming opinions about Catholic high schools and when deciding for their child to apply to and enroll in a Catholic high school. The findings provide admissions directors and administrators at Catholic schools greater insight into how to better attract, enroll, and retain students.
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