Gilovich, T. Seeing the past in the present: The effect of associations to familiar events on judgement and decisions. JPSP, 1981, 40, 797-808.

"Associations to past experience and generic knowledge importantly influence people's judgements and decisions"

When making decisions with uncertainity, we "liken new dilemmas to past events" and use information and strategies from past experiences. Reason by analogy is common in real-world decision making. However, going beyond the situation to get information is fraught with potential effors in inference and prediction.

Experiment 1
Sportswriters judged hypothetical descriptions of college football players and estimated their success in professional football. The experimenter varied the extent and relevance of comparisons between the hypothetical players and know professional stars. Sometimes the college/pro comparison was relevant (same position), some not relevant (different position) or completely irrelevant (same hometown, same number, etc.)

The results confirmed that people are influenced by associations with known quantities, regardless of the relevancy in the comparison.

Experiment 2
Similar to 1 with college coaches achieved the same results.

Experiment 3
In this study people analyzed a hypthetical political foreign -policy crisis, one versition with a reference to Munich (Germany), the other to Vietnam. The results showed that people with the WWII version made more interventionist recommendations than those with the Vietnam refrence (more hands-off recommendations).

People seem to rely on know scemas to process new information. In an uncertain situation, unknown aspects of the current problem are "filled in" from the old schema, which can be both useful and potantially misleading.