Hindsight bias

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Hindsight bias is our cognitive bias towards judging, with hindsight, that a past chain of events was inherently easily predictable. It can be explained by credulism, the certainty of belief, and the focus of our attention as we're making this judgement:

  1. Judging the inherent predictability of a known chain of events involves judging how inherently obvious it is that it would follow from its starting point.
  2. Of course, the chain of events will, to us, be obvious, because mentally constructing the chain of events simply involves retrieving our knowledge of it, rather than working it out.
  3. However, a chain of events will, by definition, also be obvious to us if it’s inherently obvious.
  4. And although the explanation in point 2, for the obviousness of the chain of events to us, is itself obvious, in order for it to enter our thought processes we must expand the focus of our attention beyond the chain of events, and its obviousness to us, to include our knowledge of it, whereas this isn’t necessary for the explanation in point 3 to enter our thought processes.
  5. Also, the inherent obviousness of the chain of events is obviously on our mind as we’re judging that inherent obviousness.
  6. Therefore, given points 4 and 5, and the speed of the brain, and the simplicity of the explanation in point 3, that explanation will tend to be the first to enter our mind, via our reasoning or imagination, as we're judging the inherent obvious of the chain of events.
  7. And given credulism and the certainty of belief, we'll be certain of this explanation upon it entering our thought processes.
  8. And, as explained in Confirmation bias - in the section Belief is self-preserving - our certainty effectively provides a degree of protection to our beliefs, directly and via confirmation bias.
    • Specifically, while our certainty exists, we’re unlikely to question our judgement, and are therefore biased against even subsequently thinking of the explanation in point 2.
  9. Therefore, we’re biased towards judging, with hindsight, that a past chain of events was inherently easily predictable.


Hindsight bias is actually a form of availability bias. The obviousness, to us, of the known chain of events is immediately available to our thought processes as we're judging the inherent obviousness of the chain of events, whereas, as explained, our consideration of our knowledge of the chain of events requires an expansion of the focus of our attention. And, as explained, the explanation in point 3 tends to enters our thought processes, via our reasoning or imagination, before we've a chance to consider that knowledge. And credulism, and the certainty of belief, mean that we'll be certain of this explanation upon it entering our thought processes, with that certainty effectively providing a degree of protection to our belief, directly and via confirmation bias.