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Abstract

It was hypothesized that hindsight effects and biased causal attributions both result from the causal explanations that perceivers construct when linking antecedents to outcomes at encoding. Specifically, the likelihood of a particular outcome and its perceived causal origins should depend on the number of causal antecedents available, the complexity of subjects' outcome explanations, and the number of outcome alternatives considered. After subjects were exposed to variations in event-specific information, they either learned the outcome or not and then explained one or more outcome alternatives. As predicted, estimates of outcome likelihood were inflated as the complexity of subjects' causal explanations increased. However, inducing subjects to explain alternative outcomes-particularly several alternative outcomes-reduced their tendency to exaggerate the likelihood of the known outcomes. Similarly, causal attributions varied as a function of the outcome alternatives explained and the number of causal antecedents presented. Implications for legal strategies are discussed.
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... Furthermore, the finding that merely repeating already known information sufficed to exert a hindsight effect even goes beyond past studies that always presented some kind of new (oftentimes causal) information to examine the mechanisms behind hindsight bias (e.g., Nario & Branscombe, 1995;Oeberst et al., 2018;Roese & Olson, 1996;Wasserman et al., 1991;Yopchick & Kim, 2012). Importantly, these findings are highly relevant as real-world scenarios likely combine both text features: Media coverage during disasters (and other phenomena like elections) is highly repetitive but at the same time novel information on the topics keep steadily coming to light. ...
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Prior research has shown that reading biased media content (e.g., Wikipedia articles) can increase recipients’ hindsight bias. It remained unclear, however, which features of the biased texts led to such an increase. We examined this question in a longitudinal experimental study (N = 190). Specifically, we tested whether repeated exposure to already known information (H1), a more coherent presentation of the information (H2), or the presentation of novel information (H3) affected readers’ hindsight impressions of likelihood, inevitability, and foreseeability. To this end, participants initially learned about an event by reading several short news, and, one week later, received one of several summarizing texts, which systematically varied in the information contained. We found empirical support for the unique effect of mere repeated exposure and receiving novel information. Since media coverage of meaningful events is usually highly repetitive but also often comprising novel information, our findings contribute to a better understanding of how hindsight bias may publicly persist or even increase over time.
... In another study, Arkes, Faust, Guilmette, and Hart (1988) reduced hindsight bias by ask ing their participants to list reasons for all potential outcomes, not just the given one (see also Nario & Branscombe, 1995). Accordingly, Roese and Vohs (2012, p. 411) concluded in their review that "intervention that encourages people to consider alternative causal explanations for a given outcome can reduce hindsight bias." ...
... However, reasoning about almanac questions differs in several aspects from reasoning about events. The most important one in the context of hindsight bias is that events trigger causal reasoning processes -an attempt to understand why something happened (Nario & Branscombe, 1995;Nestler & von Collani, 2008a) -which then result in hindsight bias (see below). These processes do not take place in the realm of almanac questions and therefore, previous findings with knowledge questions cannot be generalized to hindsight bias in the context of events. ...
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After learning about an event, people often mistakenly believe to have predicted what happened all along (hindsight bias). However, what if what has happened is not known, but subject to conjecture? Could conjectures, in the absence of knowledge about the event, elicit the same bias and make people believe they “conjectured it all along”, too? We examined this question in 2 studies. Immediately after the disappearance of flight MH370 in March, 2014, we asked N = 432 individuals about the likelihood of a number of possible events. One year later, N = 100 of these individuals participated again and were randomly assigned to 2 experimental conditions. Participants in the current conjecture group answered the same questions from their current perspective, participants in the reproduced conjecture group were asked to reproduce their earlier estimates. Results show that conjectures had changed over time and affected participants’ reproductions of their earlier estimates. We replicated this finding in a controlled lab experiment (N = 94) and found a comparable magnitude of conjecture-based and knowledge-based hindsight bias. These findings demonstrate hindsight distortions in the absence of definite knowledge and extend theoretical assumptions about the prerequisites of hindsight bias in the context of events.
... Since Fischhoff's (1975) seminal work, numerous studies have demonstrated the tendency to overestimate in hindsight what was known in foresight (seeGuilbault et al., 2004for a meta-analysis;Pohl & Erdfelder, 2017;Roese & Vohs, 2012for overviews). In past years, causal reasoning processes have been identified as a crucial factor for the occurrence of hindsight bias for events (e.g.,Carli, 1999;Nario & Branscombe, 1995;Roese & Olson, 1996;Yopchick & Kim, 2012). According to Causal Model Theory (CMT, Nestler,) hindsight bias results from a one-sided post hoc sense-making process. ...
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Chapter
Attribution theory is concerned with the attempts of ordinary people to understand the causes and implications of the events they witness. It deals with the “naive psychology” of the “man in the street” as he interprets his own behaviors and the actions of others. For man—in the perspective of attribution theory—is an intuitive psychologist who seeks to explain behavior and draw inferences about actors and their environments. To better understand the perceptions and actions of this intuitive scientist, his methods must be explored. The sources of oversight, error, or bias in his assumptions and procedures may have serious consequences, both for the lay psychologist himself and for the society that he builds and perpetuates. These shortcomings, explored from the vantage point of contemporary attribution theory, are the focus of the chapter. The logical or rational schemata employed by intuitive psychologists and the sources of bias in their attempts at understanding, predicting, and controlling the events that unfold around them are considered. Attributional biases in the psychology of prediction, perseverance of social inferences and social theories, and the intuitive psychologist's illusions and insights are described.