The Hindsight Bias - Deepstash

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Hindsight bias: the knew-it-all-along phenomenon - Ness Labs

The Hindsight Bias

The Hindsight Bias

A bias that many people including historians, experts and physicians encounter is the hindsight bias, which makes them think they knew how an event would turn out before it happened. It is the tendency for people to perceive past outcomes as having been more predictable than they actually were.

This phenomenon has been linked to distortion of memory, which unconsciously makes us understand the world based on our outlook.

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Memory bias
Memory bias

A memory bias distorts the content of your memory.

Our memories are reconstructed during recall. The process of recall makes them prone to manipulation and errors.

The many faces of the memory bias
  • Rosy retrospection bias. We often remember the past as having been better than it really was.
  • Consistency bias. We wrongly remember our past attitudes and behaviour as similar to our present attitudes and behaviour.
  • Mood-congruent memory bias. We better remember memories that are consistent with our current mood.
  • Hindsight or knew-it-all-along bias. We consider past events as being predictable.
  • Egocentric bias. We recall past events in a self-serving manner. We remember a caught fish as bigger than it was.
  • Availability bias. We think the memories that come easily to mind is more representative than it really is.
  • Recency effect. We best remember the most recent information.
  • Choice-supportive bias. We remember chosen options as better than rejected options.
  • Fading effect bias. Our emotions associated with negative memories fade faster than our feelings associated with pleasant memories.
  • Confirmation bias. We tend to interpret memories in a way that confirms our prior hypotheses of personal beliefs.
The benefits of our faulty memory

The limits of our memory serve us well in many respects.

  • Limited memories are useful trade-off to allow us to function and survive. We have thousands of memories, for example, of tables. If we recall all the events related to a table, it will create mass confusion with data overload.
  • Flawed memories may also help us to cope with our past and navigate our future. It may give us more confidence in our past decisions or make us remember happier events.
Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon
Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon

The tip-of-the-tongue, or lethologica, is a common phenomenon where memories seem to be momentarily inaccessible.

Bilingual people seem to experience more tip-of-the-tongue...

How to manage the tip-of-the-tongue state

Next time you experience a tip-of-the-tongue state, don't retrieve the information from memory. Instead, look up the correct answer. Repeat it a few times or write it down to help with encoding.

People that experience the tip-of-the-tongue state often suffer from incorrect practice time. Instead of learning the correct work, they are learning the mistake itself. For example, some music students who claim to practice diligently can get worse over time. This is because they keep on repeating the same mistakes, instead of using deliberate practice. They actually train themselves to make mistakes.

Ordinary and altered states of consciousness
Ordinary and altered states of consciousness

Altered states of consciousness can only be defined if there is an understanding of an ordinary state of consciousness.

While scientists can't agree on a clear definition, alte...

Modulating states of consciousness
  • Excessive dancing, meditation, and mind-altering plants were used in ancient civilizations to modulate the activity of the mind.
  • In 1892, the term "altered states of consciousness" was used to refer to hypnosis.
  • William James introduced the scientific investigation of mystical experiences and drug-induced states into the field of psychology.
The five altered states of consciousness
  • Pharmacological. These altered states include short-term changes caused by psychoactive substances, such as LSD MDMA, cannabis, cocaine, opioids, and alcohol.
  • Psychological. Hypnosis, meditation, and music can lead to altered mental states.
  • Physical and physiological. An altered state of consciousness is achieved through sleep, where dreams dissociate one from reality.
  • Pathological. A traumatic experience causing brain damage can lead to an altered state of consciousness. Other sources include epileptic or psychotic episodes.
  • Spontaneous. Daydreaming and mind wandering can cause altered states.