Hindsight bias is a common bias that everyone experiences.
You have probably experienced it numerous times in your life without even realizing it. In this lesson, you will learn the definition of hindsight bias and be provided with some examples.
What Is Hindsight Bias?
Have you ever tried to stop something from happening, yet the very thing you tried to prevent happened anyway? In this instance, you might have said to yourself, ‘Ugh! I knew that was gonna happen!’ Once an event occurs, it’s easy for us to believe that we knew the outcome in advance. This phenomenon is formally known as hindsight bias.Hindsight bias is when, after an event occurs, we feel we already knew what was going to happen. Hindsight bias is also sometimes called the I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon. This bias is a common occurrence for all of us.
Let’s look at some examples of hindsight bias in action.Imagine that you’re cleaning out your kitchen cupboards, and you put a glass platter near the edge of the counter. As you continue cleaning, you bump the counter and the platter falls to the ground, shattering into pieces.
You say to yourself, ‘Oh man! Of course that was going to happen!’ You might start to feel that you knew the platter was going to fall and break, even though there’s no way to be certain that you could’ve foreseen that happening. It’s just as likely that the dish could have remained on the counter, undisturbed. It’s easy to think that you knew something was going to happen after it actually happens.Another example of hindsight bias might involve a new summer job your college roommate just got. Your roommate has been let go from his last two jobs after only a short period of time.
He lets you know he just got hired as a cashier at the campus bookstore and you’re happy for him. Two months later, he tells you that they decided to let him go because the store was not busy enough. Shortly after learning this information, you tell yourself that you knew that was going to happen because the bookstore is not very busy during the summer and your friend has bad luck.Both of these events involve hindsight bias. We often think we knew something was going to happen—after the fact.
While it is true that we might sometimes predict events correctly, it’s interesting to note that we don’t always think about the events that we didn’t predict correctly.
Hindsight Bias ; Positive Events
Hindsight bias does not apply only to negative events. There are plenty of examples of positive events in which we might feel we knew the outcome ahead of time. Let’s say you have two good friends named Matt and Amanda. They’ve been your friends for a couple of years, and they get to know each other through their friendship with you.
The first night they meet, they get along well and joke around with each other. A week later, they start dating. You tell both of them that you knew after that first night that they were going to get together.This is an example of a positive event involving hindsight bias. Plenty of people have joked around with each other when they first met without the conversation leading to a relationship, so it is just as possible that Matt and Amanda would only become good friends or acquaintances. However, now that they’ve started dating, it’s easy for you to say that you predicted it.
Let’s review. Hindsight bias is when, after an event occurs, we feel we already knew what was going to happen. It occurs constantly, and we’re often not aware of it. It is easy to say we predicted an outcome after it has already happened. Being aware of this type of thinking may help us in our future interactions with others and help us recognize some of the biases we hold.