Monday, December 10, 2012

Hindsight bias.

Regarding the recent presidential election, do you feel that you knew the outcome in your gut all along? Not only felt it coming, but are sure you predicted it beforehand? I did. (But, when I honestly look back, I was totally prepared for a Romney win, and ready to say I had predicted that all along...). In this recent article, Roese and Vohs do a nice dissection of this phenomenon:

Hindsight bias occurs when people feel that they “knew it all along,” that is, when they believe that an event is more predictable after it becomes known than it was before it became known. Hindsight bias embodies any combination of three aspects: memory distortion, beliefs about events’ objective likelihoods, or subjective beliefs about one’s own prediction abilities. Hindsight bias stems from (a) cognitive inputs (people selectively recall information consistent with what they now know to be true and engage in sensemaking to impose meaning on their own knowledge), (b) metacognitive inputs (the ease with which a past outcome is understood may be misattributed to its assumed prior likelihood), and (c) motivational inputs (people have a need to see the world as orderly and predictable and to avoid being blamed for problems). Consequences of hindsight bias include myopic attention to a single causal understanding of the past (to the neglect of other reasonable explanations) as well as general overconfidence in the certainty of one’s judgments. New technologies for visualizing and understanding data sets may have the unintended consequence of heightening hindsight bias, but an intervention that encourages people to consider alternative causal explanations for a given outcome can reduce hindsight bias.

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