Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hindsight bias

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Hindsight bias is the inclination to see events that have occurred as more predictable than they in fact were before they took place. Hindsight bias has been demonstrated experimentally in a variety of settings, including politics, games and medicine. In psychological experiments of hindsight bias, subjects also tend to remember their predictions of future events as having been stronger than they actually were, in those cases where those predictions turn out correct.

Prophecy that is recorded after the fact is an example of hindsight bias, given its own rubric, as vaticinium ex eventu.

One explanation of the bias is the availability heuristic: the event that did occur is more salient in one's mind than the possible outcomes that did not.

It has been shown that examining possible alternatives may reduce the effects of this bias.

Classic studies

Paul Lazarsfeld (1949): Lazarsfeld gave participants interpretive statements that seemed like common sense immediately after they were read, but in reality the opposite was true.
Karl Teigen (1986): Teigen gave participants proverbs to evaluate. When participants were given the proverb "Fear is stronger than love", most students would rate it as true; when given its opposite ("Love is stronger than fear"), most would also rate that as true.


The following common phrases are expressions or terms for hindsight bias:
- "I told you so!"
- "With the wisdom of hindsight."
- Retrospective foresight
- 20/20 Hindsight
- Monday morning quarterback


Jade East said...

Also see.

Narrative fallacy: creating a story post-hoc so that an event will seem to have an identifiable cause.

mohican said...

I appreciate the book recommendations jade east. Black Swan was an incredibly funny read and extremely interesting. I am reading Fooled by Randomness right now.

Deliverator said...

What do you do in a case such as the housing bubble, where we could see for years that a correction was inevitable? Does our lack of accuracy in the timing of the prediction (or rather, our ability to time it) invalidate the prediction altogether? Personally, I don't think so.

Some things ARE obvious. Some effects are readily attributable to direct causes. (I read the Black Swan, too. Loved it.)