Hindsight than just an average storm even

March 25, 2019 Geography

Hindsight bias, also known as the knew it all along effect, is the phenomenon by which a person will deem an event that has already occurred as predictable even though there was little to no evidence which would cause an outcome to be more probable than an alternative outcome (Roese & Vohs, 2012). An example of hindsight bias would be when a government worker was interviewed the day after Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. and stated that he knew the day before the hurricane that it was going to be more than just an average storm even though there had been no evidence to support his claim (Bernstein, Erdfelder, Meltzoff, Peria, & Loftus, 2011). The government worker had a distortion of his memory after the hurricane had occurred which in some way prohibited him from recalling his mindset at the time and instead claiming that he knew all along that the storm was going to be a category five hurricane. This distortion of memory was first studied by Baruch Fischhoff (1975; 2003) in 1975 when he asked research participants how likely an outcome was and their responses changed based on whether they were informed on the actual outcome or not, originally labeling it creeping determinism. Since then researchers have had different theories as to why hindsight bias occurs and the different ways which it affects people. Fischhoff (1975/2003) theorized that hindsight bias was caused by new knowledge essentially overwriting a person’s memory of their thoughts before knowing the outcome of an event and thus making it impossible for them to accurately describe what they believed at the time. Another theory is that instead of overwriting or erasing the original memory, people will be unable to recollect the original memory due to the new information being introduced and instead will reconstruct the memory to the best of their ability but the outcome of the event will interfere with the person’s reconstruction, thus creating a second memory to coexist with the first memory (Dehn & Erdfelder, 1998).
In the first experiment studying hindsight bias, Baruch Fischhoff (1975/2003) wanted to measure the effect that informing participants of the outcome of an event had on how likely they would claim it was to happen. To measure this, Fischhoff gathered college participants from The Hebrew University and the University of the Negev who were split into five groups, a before group to act as a control group and the four after groups to see the effect that informing participants on outcome had on how likely they perceived the given outcome was (1975/2003). Of the four outcomes given, only one was correct to observe if participants would consider incorrect outcomes just as likely to occur as correct outcomes (1997/2003). Experiments were run multiple times with the different groups of students to measure any changes in responses based on language and academic background (1975/2003). A total of 367 students participated in the experiment and were asked to examine multiple events to minimize threats to internal validity (1975/2003). 100 English speaking students, 87 Hebrew speaking psychology students with at least one year of statistics courses taken and 100 Hebrew speaking students with no prior statistical knowledge were from the Hebrew University (1975/2003). 80 Hebrew speaking students were from the University of the Negev. Fischhoff had participants read 150-word passages on historical events which were altered slightly to keep the experiment from being confounded by participants with prior knowledge of the outcomes of the events followed by a questionnaire asking participants to rate the likelihood they believed each outcome had to occur (1975/2003). The results showed a significant difference between the probability of each outcome of an event reported by participants determined by which outcome they were told to have happened, thus supporting hindsight bias (1975/2003). Fischhoff conducted another similar experiment in which he split participants into three possible groups (1975/2003). A before group to serve as a control and two different types of after groups (1975/2003). Participants in a section of the after groups were asked to answer the questionnaire the same way that they would had the outcome not been given to them in order to compare the difference in responses between those informed of the outcome and answering honestly and those informed of the outcome and attempting to recall their mindset prior to gaining the knowledge (1975/2003). 80 lower level statistics students from the University of the Negev participated in the experiment and were given the same events to read as the first experiment had (1975/2003). The results showed that participants who were asked to answer the questionnaire as though they were not informed of the outcome believed that the outcome which they were informed occurred they believed would have been the most likely outcome to occur by using evidence from the passage and logical reasoning (1975/2003). The similar responses of those asked to ignore the outcome and those given no instruction shows that not only are participants unable to recall the memory they had before being informed of the outcome, but also that they were unaware that knowing the outcome affected them at all since groups asked to ignore the outcome given still believed that they would have found each outcome as the most probable without being informed, even though three out of the four outcomes given were wrong (1975/2003). Fischhoff ran one final experiment to measure just how well participants were able to reconstruct their thought processes prior to being informed of the outcome of an event (1975/2003). In this experiment, participants were split into similar groups to the first experiment (one before group and four after groups based on which outcome they were given) but in this iteration all participants in the after group were asked to answer the questions as if they had not been informed of the outcome (1975/2003). 94 participants from a mid-level statistics course were the subjects used for the experiment (1975/2003). The results showed that participants in the after group believed that people not given the outcome should still come to the conclusion provided using logic and evidence given in the text (1975/2003). This response was consistent across all four outcomes given to after participants and it was shown to conflict with answers given from the control group, meaning that all participants were unable to keep the newfound knowledge from affecting their ability to emulate a person who did not have that knowledge (1975/2003). Fischhoff theorized that this failure to recall how likely people felt about an outcome before being informed if that outcome was correct or not was due to the mind naturally taking the new information received and combining it with previous knowledge involuntarily to better adapt the person for future experiences. (Fischhoff 1975/2003).
Doris M. Dehn and Edgar Erdfelder (1998) wanted to find the cause of hindsight bias after reading years of research showing its effects. To achieve this they used a modified version of a model of cognitive processes that Erdfelder had created previously, called the 13-parameter hindsight-bias model (Erdfelder & Buchner, 1998) to show hindsight judgments and how they are passed. The new model was used to compare the differences between participants’ original estimation of how likely an outcome was to occur and their estimation after being told which outcome had occurred, and it was labeled as the hindsight bias difference score (HBDS) model (Dehn ; Erdfelder, 1998). This model predicted the In their experiment, Dehn and Erdfelder asked participants to answer questionnaires which asked them to predict the outcomes of public opinion surveys to give the experimenters the unbiased predictions from participants as a baseline to compare the changes to (1998). After three days participants were asked to attempt to recall their exact predictions as best they could, but some participants would also be told the outcome of the opinion survey they were given to measure the change it had on their ability to correctly reconstruct their memories from before they were informed (1998). The participants who were not informed of any outcome were used as a control group who were unaffected by hindsight bias (1998). The experimenters also wished to see exactly which types of answers were most affected by hindsight bias so they split the questionnaires into two different types of responses (1998). For half of the questionnaire participants were allowed to freely respond to the questions with their own words and in the other half participants were given five possible estimates from which they had to pick the most likely option to occur (1998). During the recollection, however, all questions were a free response in order to give participants as few recall cues as possible (1998). This would force participants to attempt to completely reconstruct the memory of how they felt before knowing the outcome of the survey and measure the exact deviation from their original answers (1998). Participants were 44 psychology students from the University of Bonn who were compensated with course credit (1998). The results showed that HBDS were similar whether multiple choice answers were given or not (1998). This showed that hindsight bias was not caused by a failure to recollect their memories or solvable by giving participants vague recall cues by showing them the options they had seen when they had originally answered (1998). After observing these results Dehn and Erdfelder concluded that there was no evidence to support Fischhoff’s theory that hindsight bias was caused by a failure to recall the original memory due to interference from new information provided (1998). They were unable to prove that hindsight bias was solely caused by a failure in the reconstruction of memory however because they had not controlled all possible independent variables to do so (1998).
Melissa A. Z. Knoll and Hal R. Arkes (2016) wanted to examine whether a person’s knowledge on a subject had any effect on how much hindsight bias truly affected people. Their hypothesis was that based on previous research as a person’s confidence in their knowledge on a subject increases so too does the effect that hindsight bias has on their memory. Previous research that they had studied showed that the more confident people are in their knowledge of a subject, the less likely they are to admit that they may not know information related to the subject, and thus if a person is shown the outcome to an event they are knowledgeable on they are more likely to claim that they knew that outcome was to happen than someone with little knowledge on the subject. In their first experiment Knoll and Arkes gathered 262 psychology students from a Midwestern university and divided them into three possible groups. 83 students were placed in a group instructed to read an essay on MVP baseball candidates and answer 20 true or false questions immediately after which were related to the text they just read. 96 students were placed in a group told to read the MVP essay and answer the same questions as though they had not read the essay to examine how well participants were able to hide their hindsight bias compared to participants who used the newfound knowledge. The final 83 students were placed in a third group which read an essay unrelated to the MVP candidates and answer the following 20 questions to the best of their abilities. After this, all participants were given a 33 question free response section which tested the participants’ general knowledge on the rules and structure of baseball to serve as a measure of their expertise in the subject. The results of the experiment showed participants’ ability to suppress their bias to be negatively correlated with their expertise scores, giving evidence for Knoll and Arke’s hypothesis that the higher a person’s expertise is, the higher their hindsight bias. They proceeded to perform a second experiment meant to show that hindsight bias is based on the amount that people believe that they know about a topic rather than the actual amount of knowledge they have. Knoll and Arke recruited 153 psychology students from a large Midwestern university to participate in the experiment. Participants were instructed to rank the subjects of history, math, literature, science and geography in order of most knowledgeable to least knowledgeable. Participants also had to listen to 20 questions from each subject and rate how confident they felt in each subject immediately afterward from 0-9 to measure exactly how much they believed they knew to test the hypothesis accurately (2016). After listening to all 100 questions and rating how much they felt they knew about each subject, participants were divided into two groups. Group 1 was instructed to listen to the list of 100 questions again and attempt to answer the questions to the best of their ability or type “I don’t know.” if they could not, and group 2 was given the same questions along with the answer immediately afterward and instructed to write the probability out of 100 that they would have answered the question correctly had they not been shown the answer. The results of the experiment showed that levels of hindsight bias were positively correlated with participants’ ratings of how much they believed they knew about each subject and their ranking of each subject, giving support to their hypothesis that perceived knowledge increases hindsight bias. They used the number of questions participants answered correctly to measure how much they actually knew about each subject to compare to the amount they felt they knew. Using their first two experiments Knoll and Arke were able to show the amount that participants knew and believed they knew both influenced hindsight bias, but they still wanted to see if knowledge gained for the purpose of measuring hindsight bias provided significantly different results from natural knowledge. To test this the experimenters recruited 341 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers and paid each worker $1.50 as compensation for their participation. Of the 341 participants only 271 were eligible to participate after 63 were eliminated due to being involved with an experiment which used similar methods and 7 more were eliminated after not completing the minimum number of questions rating how much they felt they knew about a subject. The experimenters chose to prime participants by randomly dividing them into two groups and asking them 12 geography questions inquiring how knowledgeable they were about geography. Participants assigned to the group labelled as the high perceived expertise group or the low perceived expertise group, in which high perceived expertise participants were asked questions that they were likely to score high on whereas low perceived expertise participants were asked questions that were worded in ways that would cause majority of the group to answer with low scores. Six of the questions were intended to increase or decrease the participants’ perceived expertise by asking the high perceived expertise group questions about how knowledgeable they were in the field of geography that were worded specifically to allow them to score higher than their low perceived expertise counterparts who were given questions they were significantly less likely to rate themselves highly on. By influencing the amount that participants believed they knew about geography Knoll and Arke were able to study exactly how much perceived expertise affects hindsight bias. The experimenters collected exact perceived expertise scores by asking participants to rate their knowledge of geography which would reflect exactly how much participants believed they knew after being primed by the previous questions. Next, the experimenters randomly assigned the participants to either the foresight group which served as a control group, the hindsight group to serve as a baseline for hindsight bias without measuring perceived knowledge, or the feeling of knowing group to measure how perceived knowledge affects hindsight bias. Participants in the foresight group were asked a series of 12 geography questions and asked to answer them to the best of their abilities. Hindsight bias participants were instructed to read the questions with the answer shown to them and give the probability that they would have given the correct answer on a scale of 100. Feeling of knowing participants were shown the questions and answers, but were only given a scale of zero to nine to rate the probability that they would have known the correct answer. The results revealed that the average hindsight bias scores of participants were unaffected by the knowledge that they were influenced to believe they knew or did not know, thus supporting the theory that hindsight bias is influenced by knowledge obtained naturally and not by knowledge induced artificially (2016).


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