Hindsight bias: We knew it all along

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

IT’S probably human nature for many of us to say—“I knew it” even if we’re not sure of what would happen. That’s the trouble. Stupid people are cocksure while intelligent ones are always full of doubt. In parenting, the often asked question that preoccupy the time of reflective parents is this: “Do we hear too well or our children just too noisy?”

The underlying reason for this is our bias against certain persons or events. If a person is known to be a deadwood in his work performance, we tend to expect very little of his contributions to the organization. On the other hand, if someone is a fast-tracker, we expect him to surpass his own achievement in the past.

If you’re too forgiving and if people don’t measure up to your expectations, most of the time, you check the yardstick instead, if not lower the standards—whichever is more practical.

This is “hindsight bias,” or the tendency to believe that certain events will come true even if we’re not sure that it will happen. When we’re overloaded with “hindsight bias,” problems can happen that could affect our objective analysis of analyzing, understanding, and interpreting results.


Too often, though, even corporate executives with MBAs and even those with doctorate degrees rely on the “hindsight bias” no matter how it has become equivalent to superstition, if not fantasy.

Is this good or bad? In the workplace, new perspectives, ideas, and innovations may be greeted by some of your alleged team mates with folded arms. They’re called your “negative vibes” or people who want to be totally convinced before they’re willing to support you. Sometimes, they simply don’t want to be convinced, but instead they don’t want you to succeed for some malevolent reasons.

I say, don’t let these screeners dampen your enthusiasm or diminish your energy.

This is challenge. Whether or not your idea is warmly received the first time you introduce it, proceed just the same. Determination takes you from a confident ignorance to an uncertain, but a welcome success that you aspire for.

Last Saturday, I bought a P20 lotto ticket, which is something I do approximately every seven to nine months. I’m keeping my luck spaced out, because I don’t want to have a dramatic change in lifestyle. And besides, I was at the mall to wait for my wife who was enjoying her own sweet time maxing out the credit cards.

Somehow, I got my ticket without any hassle and without the benefit of a dirty ball pen used by 10,467 hopefuls every day. That’s the neatest part if you’ll tell the lotto clerk—“lucky pick” even if you know that it’s not lucky because you don’t want to use your family member’s birthdates. If you’ve ever been to a lotto outlet and seen it, then you know what I mean.

“I knew it,” I told myself when I saw the result on the following day. God does not want me to change my lifestyle. Well, at least not yet.

The same thing goes to my dieting. I know I can do preventive health care which is far more superior to the most expensive premium offered by health maintenance organizations manned by junior medical professionals.

To do this, I’ve to be very careful about certain types of food as in—processed foods, fried foods, fast food meals, or anything that contains seafood, chicken, chocolates and peanuts and all foods cooked by my wife at home. The only food group that I prefer to consume every day is—at least three liters of purified water (unsweetened, of course), bananas, low-fat celery, green produce and the usual breakfast oatmeal generously laced with Sustagen™ vanilla.

This diet has been difficult for me to follow. “I knew it,” my wife tells me. But I’ve been pretty good so far in maintaining my waist line, and I’m hoping that my blood cholesterol and sugar level will be a lot lower too. Now I know.

I’m looking at my childhood days with nostalgia. I knew it. It was one wonderful time when all I needed to do to lose weight was to take a bath.

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

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