Alarming hindsight bias

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

WE’VE just ushered the New Year. It is the time of the year when we’re usually bombarded with predictions from feng-sui masters, geomancers, astrologers, and clairvoyants. Since decades ago, this practice burdens our minds, sitting heavily on our hearts, bloating the intestines of our cultural consciousness with the twin gases of fame and commercialism that motivate these people.

The media is equally guilty for giving them space at a time when news are a bit scarce. The public pitifully accepts them for their entertainment value. Unfortunately, many of us miss one important point. We don’t bother anymore to dissect the track record of those people who dish out falsehoods.

In the first place, how many of these feng-sui masters, geomancers, astrologers, and clairvoyants have successfully predicted the future and yet, why do we continue to listen to their stories?

We can always go back to what they said in the past and I’m almost sure that no one can claim that he’s correct. The trouble is that when a prediction comes to fruition; expect that person to say “I told you so” or words to that effect. Then we ask ourselves — what’s the cause of this utter, disgraceful lack of consciousness, if not tolerance by the general public?


Psychology has one probable answer – “hindsight bias.” And so why is the “hindsight bias” alarming? For one, it makes feng-sui masters, geomancers, astrologers, and clairvoyants believe they are better predictors than weather forecasters, economic experts, sports analysts, and political commentators than they actually are.

The truth of the matter is – “hindsight bias” happens every day and everywhere. Everyone falls for it without you and me knowing what to call such situation. Take the following examples:

Days before the championship night at the Philippine Basketball Association, you predicted that San Miguel would grab the trophy from Talk and Text in four games straight, without justifying your position or offering any scientific explanation (for there is none). When San Miguel finally notched the championship, you come back bragging to your friends about your forecast and challenged everyone for a bigger bet next time.

Another example is about a young man fresh from college. He filed a job application with one employer who told him that a decision will be made in two days. Judging from his experience with other 30 employers, he was readying himself on another gloomy outcome, until he received a congratulatory email. He told his mother about it who said something like “I knew you can make it” even though she expressed doubts because his son finished college in seven years.

When preparing for a long weekend vacation, the head of the family expressed apprehensions that they may forgot something that is important for their beach outing. When they finally reach the beach house, it turned out that his youngest son forgot their favorite sun block. Then the father started berating his son, who was reminded about it one day before. “I was sure it would happen and yet you ignored my instruction,” says the father to the despicable son.

Hindsight bias can be corrected by having an objective thought process about anything. One approach is to immediately reject the findings of feng-shui masters, geomancers, astrologers, and clairvoyants, even the mangkukulam (sorcerers). When you’re confronted by some predictions, forecasts, or wild guesses, grab the opportunity to challenge the findings by checking on their track record of success.

I hope this comes true with our “bobotante” (dumb electorate) and “tangasuporta” (blind political followers) to use the lesson of this piece to objectively dissect the prospect of candidates and elect the best possible leaders of this nation.

So come on, Philippines! This is our chance to make a difference. Stand up against these morons. With a little ingenuity, we can achieve remarkable results very much like what they’re doing in other progressive countries. I bet that when word of your intellectual prowess gets around, foreign investors will be flocking to our door. And I hope they’re not bringing in a crystal ball.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback toelbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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1 Comment

  1. Anyone that listens to any of these predictors ( excuse the word ) & actually believes them, well, there is no helping you. A very simple explanation for you. Just look throughout the world say how many peiople were born on january 1. New years day. So make any prediction for that day. You will come into money, well from all the millions born on that day each year from whenever up till now at least one of them will come into money. Another 1 some of you will die today, just look throughout the world how many people die every single day & remember that will happen to every single one of us, so by predicting someone will die well you are spot on.
    I have advice for you, dont even read the tosh they come out with its a complete waste iof time. Use your energy & thoughts to help yourself get on in life. Then if you do i predict some of you will succeed.
    Now to lighten it up a little, you know what succeeds, a budgerigar with no teeth ( sucks seeds ).