June 21, 2008

Hindsight Bias

Filed under: Personal Branding — Robert John Ed @ 8:44 pm

I’m starting to read a text book on Psychology. Text book reading is different than other kinds of reading; it’s difficult to describe, but you can skim a bit more and the chapters often offer reflection and previews for what to look for. I haven’t read a text book in over three years, but it’s easier than I remember.

One of the first of the first valuable concepts the book described is hindsight bias. It’s the idea that humans naturally refer to events that have already occurred as easily predictable. For instance, after the 9/11 attacks, it was very easy to say how we should have saw the warning signs. After Google dominated search and grew to be the most powerful company in the world, it was obvious that search and information organization was going to grow.

To err is human. To say you knew what was going to happen after the fact is all too human.

We all do this in many aspects of our lives and it serves as a detriment to our thought processes. It clouds are ability to understand the correlating factors as well as causative factors. I think poker is a very good place to see this irrationality in people. Regardless of a hands outcome, many players will always say “I knew you had it” or “I knew you were bluffing the whole time.”

This is a simple way to rationalize their decision making after the fact; no one wants to think that their judgment could be off or realize that they are wrong (especially in front of others). This is the reason that so few people actually become professional poker players; they aren’t willing to acknowledge their ineptitudes, regardless of the frequency of occurance, and as such cannot see and improve their weaknesses.

The same ideas are applicable to many facets of our lives, including relationships, work and personal development. We need to allow ourselves the admittance that we do not know what is going to happen. We cannot and will not ever know the future with certainty. We can only study with eyes wide open and attempt to understand mitigating factors at play, then make predictions and be truthful about the outcomes.

That kind of humility is seldom available and could be an incredible asset to those willing to wield it.


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