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Mental Models - Issue #49 - Hindsight Bias 👓

Mental Models Weekly
Mental Models - Issue #49 - Hindsight Bias 👓
By Julia Clavien • Issue #49 • View online
Do you still have any sense of surprise about the covid-19 pandemic? I noticed that I don’t. It reminded me to write you a little post on hindsight bias.

What is hindsight bias?
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.
Daniel Kahneman explains:
Once you adopt a new view of the world (or of any part of it), you immediately lose much of your ability to recall what you used to believe before your mind changed.
Why is this interesting?
It’s very hard to connect with or hold onto your old viewpoint!
Hindsight bias can cause a lot of overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.
Here’s an interesting USA centric example from Richard Thaler:
So if you ask people now, did they think it was plausible that we would have an African-American president before a woman president, they say, “Yeah, that could happen.”
All you needed was the right candidate to come along. Obviously, one happened to come along. But, of course, a decade ago no one thought that that was more likely. So, we’re all geniuses after the fact. Here in America we call it Monday-morning quarterbacking.
Like many biases, it’s often easier to notice them in others.
Past events will always look less random than they were (it is called the hindsight bias).
I would listen to someone’s discussion of his own past realizing that much of what he was saying was just backfit explanations concocted ex post by his deluded mind.
- Taleb, Fooled By Randomness
To become more aware of your own hindsight bias, Kahneman recommends to start keeping track of your decisions. For example you could start a decision log where you track the inputs to decisions and related predictions. Revisit this clear record from time to time and see if what you wrote matches up with your current recollection.
I am going to do this now for one of my recent decisions! Let me know if you start a decision log too.
Photo by Bud Helisson
Photo by Bud Helisson
Want to go deeper?
🎥 I was watching Daniel Kahneman & Yuval Noah Harari in conversation earlier this week and they touched on related ideas.
📖 Thinking Fast & Slow The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness are worth reading, and re-reading.
😂 Hindsight bias is also evocatively known as knew-it-all-along phenomenon or creeping determinism.
🧠 Related models - revisit them and build your mental latticework!
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Julia Clavien

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