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Survivorship bias: when failure gets forgotten

https://nesslabs.com/survivorship-bias

nesslabs.com

Survivorship bias: when failure gets forgotten
Survivorship bias is a common bias that leads to false conclusions by focusing on the elements that made it past a selection process, and overlooking the ones that did not.

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The Survivorship Bias

The Survivorship Bias

We tend to be interested in the success stories of many. We love the encouragement it provides us, but we often overlook the fact that most of these success stories have undergone through many failures.

Survivorship bias is when we concentrate on the people and the things that passed through a selection process and experienced a form of success. This process tends to overlook those who did not make it through and almost always leads to false conclusions.

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The effects of survivorship bias

When we ignore the logical error of the stories and advice we hear it deceives us into believing that past failures are not adequate enough to be considered.

This bias induces people to see correlation in sheer coincidences.

A great example is when the U.S. Military tried to reduce aircraft casualties back in WWII. They analyzed the planes that got back safely but never the ones that didn't. They concluded that they should increase armor in the wings and the tails of the planes, but not the engine.

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Survivorship bias in business

We must remember that most people do not become rich and famous. Most leaps of faiths are miscalculated. This does not mean that we should stop trying, instead we should remain to have a realistic understanding of reality.

Most entrepreneurs don't actually know what they're doing. There isn't a lot of them who have a detailed or a perfected plan to follow. Still, we try to "copy" their ways so that we can probably achieve what they have achieved.

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Avoiding survivorship bias

Most of the inspirational success stories we see give out advice like waking up at 5 AM in the morning or eating a well-balanced meal. Those are important, but we should not overlook those who were unsuccessful.

We should learn from their mistakes and be careful not to repeat it for ourselves. We need to find our own recipe for success. Lastly, we need to consider the role of luck in our lives because it is rare to stumble upon something valuable to increase our chances of success.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Survivorship Bias

Survivorship bias is a logical error that twists our understanding of the world and leads to a wrong understanding of cause and effect.

We fall into survivorship bias when we assume that suc...

Against the Odds

When we only pay attention to the exception above the normal, we end up misunderstanding reality. While there is much to learn from the anomalies, it would be a mistake to expect the same results from doing the same things. 

Cause and Effect

Survivorship bias leads us to think that coincidence is a correlation. We want the encouragement from survivorship bias so we can believe in our own capabilities, but it results in an inflated idea of how people become successful.

The fact is that success is never guaranteed. It does not mean that we shouldn't try, just that we should have a realistic understanding.

Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on the winners while completely forgetting about the losers who are employing the same strategy.


Loss aversion refers to our tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains.

Loss aversion refers to our tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains.

Availability Heuristic appears when we assume that the examples coming to mind easily are the most prevalent.

Availability Heuristic appears when we assume that the examples coming to mind easily are the most prevalent.

Cognitive Bias

Cognitive Bias

Cognitive Bias is a predictable pattern of mental errors where we misperceive reality and move away from the most likely way of reaching our goals.

These mental blind spots...

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping. Unconscious bias often leads to discrimination, be it deliberate or unintentional.

Unconscious bias is different from cognitive biases. Cognitive biases relate to our brains' particular wiring, while unconscious bias refers to perceptions between different groups and are specific to different societies.

How to Reduce Unconscious Bias

  • Recognise that the unconscious bias is a systemic issue. Internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.
  • There is no shame or guilt in unconscious bias. Unconscious bias stems from our tendency to categorise people into social groups and often doesn't match our conscious values.
  • It takes a series of conversations and interventions to prevent and protect against unconscious bias.