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A heuristic is a simple rule that can be useful when reasoning about a complex situation.

While the theory of ethical decision-making and frameworks for practical decision-making provide explicit structures for decision-making, they often implicitly incorporate smaller scale structural heuristics. However, it is useful to discuss such ideas explicitly, rather than leave them hidden inside larger structures. Moreover, it is sometimes not possible to apply the larger frameworks, but still use the smaller-scale concepts.

Here we consider five heuristics of effective altruism:

  1. Counterfactual considerations
  2. Crucial considerations
  3. Thinking globally
  4. Thinking at the margin
  5. Relationship between overheads and effectiveness