Hindsight Bias

Why are the answers to a test so obvious after you’ve taken that test? And why do you think of so many good comebacks after you’ve walked away from an argument? Many events, such as the Titanic and football not coming home, seem so predictable after they have happened. Why? The answer is simple: Hindsight Bias. 

Hindsight Bias, or the ‘knew-it-all-along’ effect, occurs after an unpredictable event, where people look back and see it as easily predictable because they have lived through it. This can negatively affect our future decision-making abilities – because we are prone to assuming if we guessed correctly before, we’ll guess correctly every single time. Our overconfidence in our abilities to weigh up outcomes may lead us to take avoidable (and maybe dangerous) risks. 

Most importantly, Hindsight Bias can negatively impact how we learn from our past decisions because our ability to make good decisions is directly influenced by how we perceive our past decisions. The risks involved in past decisions may seem less dangerous after the event because we are reviewing the risks knowing the outcome and consequences. 

Hindsight Bias has the potential to skew our self-perception as we use the known conclusions to base our risk assessments on, instead of what we originally thought was going to happen. So we might be more willing to take dangerous or reckless risks, meaning that we might make even worse decisions in the future. 

How can we combat this? Making a log of your predictions to events and what actually happened may ground you in future decision-making. With a ‘decision journal’, you can more accurately see how close your prediction was to the final outcome – and you can reflect and tell yourself that you didn’t know it all along.  

Another way of combating Hindsight Bias is to examine other possible outcomes. Mentally listing a few other ways of the event ending can help you realise that every decision you make can have multiple different endings. But be careful, as too many alternatives can also place cognitive load on your decision-making abilities. 

Hindsight bias – did you know this all along?

Interested in using behavioural science to understand your audiences better? Write to us at contact@lynnpr.co.uk to get started on your behavioural insights journey.

This article was written by Clodagh Mckechnie, Campaigns & PR Trainee at Lynn PR.