Hindsight bias is not a bias

Analysis 79 (1):43-52 (2019)
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Abstract

Humans typically display hindsight bias. They are more confident that the evidence available beforehand made some outcome probable when they know the outcome occurred than when they don't. There is broad consensus that hindsight bias is irrational, but this consensus is wrong. Hindsight bias is generally rationally permissible and sometimes rationally required. The fact that a given outcome occurred provides both evidence about what the total evidence available ex ante was, and also evidence about what that evidence supports. Even if you in fact evaluate the ex ante evidence correctly, you should not be certain of this. Then, learning the outcome provides evidence that if you erred, you are more likely to have erred low rather than high in estimating the degree to which the ex ante evidence supported the hypothesis that that outcome would occur.

Author's Profile

Brian Hedden
Australian National University

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