We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I suppose it could be a fancy way of saying that sometimes we cannot see the forest for a single tree, and are thus "prevented" from considering all of the relevant facts or options.
This sort of cognitive bias typically operates, as do most biases, unconsciously or reflexively, as a gravitational pull towards some decision or reaction.
A true example (but not an unconscious one, from the Mrs., on considering what new car to buy): "It just has to be the right shade of maroon."
Another example, reported to me by a pediatrician friend: "I ordered a brain MRI ($800) for a 10 year-old kid with tension headaches. Totally unnecessary, and I realized afterwards that I did it because I had read a journal article over the weekend about an undiagnosed brain tumor in a 10 year-old."
Thus, like most fallacies and biases, it's part of the brain's effort to be efficient or persuasive in its heuristics by tossing out an anchor on one detail (ouch - that's bad writing), and often might, but doesn't always, lead to the most realistic choices.
This was an excellent write-up, thanks, though on your pediatrician friend's account I'd like to make one observation toward an alternate explanation: I believe that many people wrestle with the dichotomy of fate versus free will, and it may just be possible that at the point of deciding whether to order the MRI - this good doctor may have wondered whether having just read that journal article could've been 'meant to have happened' as a means of possibly saving his own patient's life. It's along the same prevalent thought pattern as persons believing they've found their one and only soul mate in life, or having to play certain numbers in a lotto because they suddenly became personally significant in another vein. Just my two cents worth, and thanks again for this excellent, thought-provoking topic.