You must have heard the adage that “the riddle will be solved easily”. Have you ever wondered why it seems easy to solve after solving a math problem, while it seemed difficult before it was solved ?! When a problem is solved, it seems easy and predictable. Why is this so? In psychology, this phenomenon is called retrospective bias. In this article, we will talk about this concept and its effect on our attitude and behavior.
What is retrospective bias?
Retrospective bias is defined as: افراد The tendency of people’s minds to consider an issue more predictable than it really is. Although you may be able to guess the probable outcome before an event, there is no way to know which prediction is correct.
After a result is achieved, people tend to say that they knew it would happen this way or that way. In fact, the famous phrase “I saw what I said” is a sign of a person’s willingness to predict an event that may not have been possible to predict. This phenomenon is seen in many cases, from sports to politics and family relationships. People often give more weight and credibility to their predictions after an event.
Examples of retrospective bias
- After competing in a sport, you may claim that you have already predicted the outcome and know which team will win in the end!
- In 1993, Dorothy Dietrich and Matthew Olson asked schoolchildren to anticipate the outcome of a Senate vote on Clarence Thomas’ candidacy for Supreme Court justice. Prior to the Senate vote, 58 percent of students predicted he would get the required vote. After the Senate vote and his election, the two researchers again polled the students, and this time 78% of them said they knew he would be appointed!
- Another well-known example is the study of lessons and the analysis of exam results. Some students may find that they know most of the material while studying. As a result, they spend less time and effort. On the other hand, when confronted with the correct answers to the exam, they may claim that they knew the answers but for some reason could not enter them on the form! Such perceptions may have negative consequences for their education, because with this retrospective bias, they will not improve their way of studying and will fall behind.
Why does our mind become biased?
Retrospective bias occurs when information about how and the outcome of an event is given to us and directs our minds toward “what I said.” We selectively adapt new information to what we previously anticipated to conclude that we already knew it would happen one way or another.
Scientists name three variables to describe the reasons for this bias. They believe that these three variables together make us think things are more predictable than they really are. These 3 variables are:
1. Cognitive variables
People tend to distort or even change what they predicted. People’s minds tend to remember data that is consistent with the results. After seeing the results, people exaggerate the amount of information they have about an event, claiming that they predicted it.
2. Metacognitive variables
When we encounter the consequences and how a phenomenon occurs, that event seems predictable to us.
3. Motivational variables
It is reassuring for many to believe that the phenomena around us are inevitable and certain and that they occur according to plan. Individuals and communities tend to live in a predictable, orderly world, and many find it unpleasant to realize that the world is a collection of random events. Even Einstein was reluctant to accept this, and in his famous phrase “God does not roll the dice” he stated his opposition to quantum mechanics (which is based on probability).
When all three of these variables are combined, we are more likely to encounter retrospective bias. These three variables can be analyzed in the following example:
When the movie is over and the killer character is revealed, we turn to our memory and subconsciously look for information that matches the ending of the movie. Considering the other characters and situations in the film, we may conclude that it was clear from the beginning who the killer was; While perhaps not really obvious to us in the middle of the film.
Consequences of retrospective bias
This way of thinking may have adverse consequences on our lives; For example, such an attitude may lead to false self-confidence. As a result, we also have the illusion that we have great power in predicting events and, therefore, we will take more dangerous risks.
These risks may disrupt various aspects of our lives; For example, a person who invests all his capital in a certain share of the stock market through false self-confidence, or a person who spends a large part of his time and feelings in a relationship because of his false predictive power.
Some jobs are less prone to this bias than others. In a job like accounting where the person is constantly confronted with feedback and recorded data, there is less room for retrospective bias. However, in most jobs and situations, due to their more complex nature and the existence of many overt and covert factors, the possibility of this bias increases in individuals.
Can we get rid of the backward trap?
Researchers on this phenomenon have proposed ways to avoid this bias. One way is to look at all the results that may have happened but did not. By examining all the options in our minds, we can gain a better understanding of the nature and predictability of a phenomenon.
One simple but effective way to prevent this cognitive bias is to have a diary and write diaries. By recording events and the course of events in it, you remember what process went through until an event occurred. Looking back, not through the lens of memory but through the lens of the pen, we can gain a better understanding of what really happened (not what we thought happened). As a result, we are less likely to be retrograde.