Willie Sutton Rule


DEFINITION of 'Willie Sutton Rule'

A somewhat apocryphal axiom that stresses the need for an individual to focus on activities that generate high returns, rather than on actions that might be frivolous or yield lower returns. The rule derives its name from notorious U.S. bank robber Willie Sutton, who when queried by a reporter about why he robbed banks, famously quipped "because that's where the money is." While Sutton denied saying this in his 1976 autobiography, it continues to be erroneously attributed to him. May also be referred to as Sutton's law.

BREAKING DOWN 'Willie Sutton Rule'

The Willie Sutton Rule is often taught to medical students as Sutton's Law. It states that when making a diagnosis, it is worthwhile to first focus on the obvious and conduct medical tests that may confirm the most likely diagnosis, rather than trying to diagnose a relatively uncommon medical condition. This approach may yield faster and more accurate results, while avoiding needless costs that would be incurred by conducting unnecessary medical tests.

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