Causal Reasoning and Hindsight Bias

 Jennelle YopchickCongratulations to Jennelle Yopchick and her advisor Nancy Kim for receiving “The Society for Personality and Social Psychology Best Poster Award for 2010” titled “Causal Reasoning and Hindsight Bias.” This is quite an honor. Jennelle’s poster was one of seven that received the “Best” honor from over 2,000 posters presented at the annual conference held this year in Las Vegas, Nevada. Their poster abstract follows along with a link to their entire poster.

 Jennelle YopchickWhat factors contribute to hindsight bias, the phenomenon whereby the known outcome of an event appears obvious only after the fact? We tested a causal reasoning hypothesis of hindsight bias (Wasserman, Lempert, & Hastie, 1991), which posits that when a causal connection from an event to the outcome of that event is easily constructed, the outcome appears inevitable and hindsight bias results.

In Experiment 1a, we explicitly manipulated the ease with which a causal link could be drawn from the event to the outcome by supplying additional event-related information of either high or low plausibility and high or low relevance to the outcome (as pre-rated by a separate group).

In Experiment 1b we tested whether preventing causal reasoning eliminates hindsight bias, regardless of the presence of relevant information and additionally whether facilitating causal reasoning yields hindsight bias even if the information given is of low relevance.
Experiments 1a and 1b supported the causal reasoning hypothesis; hindsight bias was obtained only when causal reasoning was easily carried out.

Experiment 2 showed that when a causal connection is more easily drawn from the event to an alternative outcome than to the actual outcome, reverse hindsight bias results (Ofir & Mazursky, 1997). We suggest that the causal reasoning hypothesis also explains several other key findings in hindsight bias research. Implications for future directions in hindsight bias research are discussed.

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