IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Hindsight bias redefined: It's about time


  • Fessel, Florian
  • Epstude, Kai
  • Roese, Neal J.


Four experiments introduced a new conceptual and methodological approach to hindsight bias, traditionally defined as the tendency to exaggerate the a priori predictability of outcomes after they become known. By examining likelihood estimates rooted to specific time points during an unfolding event sequence (videos and short text stories), judged both in foresight and hindsight, we conceptualized hindsight bias as a contrast between two "inevitability curves," which plotted likelihood against time. Taking timing into account, we defined three new indicators of accuracy: linear accuracy (how well hindsight judgments capture the linear trend of foresight judgments over time), rate accuracy (how well hindsight judgments reflect the slope of foresight judgments over time), and temporal accuracy (how well hindsight judgments specify the overall timing of the full envelope of foresight judgments). Results demonstrated that hindsight judgments showed linear and rate accuracy, but were biased only in terms of lack of temporal accuracy. The oft-used catchphrase "knew it all along effect" was found to be a misnomer, in that participants were well aware in hindsight that their earlier foresight judgments reflected uncertainty. The current research therefore points to one way in which retrospective judgments can be considered biased, yet simultaneously suggests that considerable accuracy exists when people render such judgments.

Suggested Citation

  • Fessel, Florian & Epstude, Kai & Roese, Neal J., 2009. "Hindsight bias redefined: It's about time," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 110(1), pages 56-64, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:110:y:2009:i:1:p:56-64

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Müller, Patrick A. & Stahlberg, Dagmar, 2007. "The role of surprise in hindsight bias : a metacognitive model of reduced and reversed hindsight bias," Papers 07-16, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    2. Schkade, David A. & Kilbourne, Lynda M., 1991. "Expectation-outcome consistency and hindsight bias," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 105-123, June.
    3. Tetlock, Philip E. & Lebow, Richard Ned, 2001. "Poking Counterfactual Holes in Covering Laws: Cognitive Styles and Historical Reasoning," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 95(4), pages 829-843, December.
    4. Louie, Therese A., 2005. "Hindsight bias and outcome-consistent thoughts when observing and making service provider decisions," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 98(1), pages 88-95, September.
    5. Christensen-Szalanski, Jay J. J. & Willham, Cynthia Fobian, 1991. "The hindsight bias: A meta-analysis," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 147-168, February.
    6. Müller, Patrick A. & Stahlberg, Dagmar, 2007. "The Role of Surprise in Hindsight Bias – A Metacognitive Model of Reduced and Reversed Hindsight Bias," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 07-16, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Bonaccorsi, Andrea & Apreda, Riccardo & Fantoni, Gualtiero, 2020. "Expert biases in technology foresight. Why they are a problem and how to mitigate them," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    2. Sheng, Liang, 2015. "Dynamic dual process account explaining the bias after outcome – An exploratory research on memory distortion hindsight bias," Working Papers 39948, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:110:y:2009:i:1:p:56-64. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Haili He). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.