We have all been in a situation where something happens and we say “I knew it.” This may happen if we have a hunch about a sports game, or something that our friend is likely to do. We may have some information that leads us to think the outcome is possible. In most cases, however, this is considered hindsight bias. This concept shows issues with historical information and experimental studies, as it can cause a distortion of memory.
This concept first came to the knowledge of psychiatrists in the 1970s. It was noticed before, but made its way into research during this time. This proved to be a difficult area of study, and yet a common occurrence in everyday life. A researcher named Fischoff took a group of people and gave them a story with various possible endings. They were told that a particular one was true. After they read everything and looked back on the information as a memory, they were asked what they predicted all along. Most of them stated that they “knew” the outcome all along. This same concept was added to many studies with the subject changed.
Hindsight bias seems to cause some major issues in court cases. You have jurors that are presented with a lot of information and they are expected to come up with a solution. When a case is about a death from malpractice medical care, for example, the jurors tend to apply more hindsight bias. They look at the case and expect that the doctor “should have known” that this would happen. Studies show that when the subject covered is a less severe outcome, like a mild injury, they do not place as much hindsight bias on the doctor. They tend to give the doctor more reasonable benefit of the doubt. This may have to do with our desire to place blame when something bad happens.
Hindsight bias is present in all age groups. It is difficult to assess in children, however, due to their limited communication when it comes to vocabulary. An image based study is used on children. One study they showed them an image on a screen and timed when they realized what it was. The image started out blurry and gradually came into focus. They later were asked to predict at what point other kids would figure out the picture. The point in time that they predicted was much earlier than the point when the children actually figured out the image. This is a great simple explanation. What we think when we look back on something is often inaccurate.
Hindsight bias is a complicated theory. It has to do with how we view things as individuals, in some ways. When we look back on something, the reality of it may change in our own mind. Observations by others may be completely different. It takes accurate and detailed research studies to gain an understanding of this.