The perils of hindsight judgment

Scientific American:

Paul Meehl was renowned for many things: his insistence on statistical and research rigor; his prescient views on schizophrenia; his advancements in psychotherapy; his creation of one of the scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI—one of the most widely used tests of personality in clinical research and practice.) He is equally famous for his aversion to academic conferences. “We never see Dr. Meehl at a case conference,” whines one of Meehl’s hypothetical students. “Why is this?” This presumptive lament is the instigation for one of Meehl’s most widely cited papers, “Why I do not attend case conferences.”

Meehl didn’t have a catchy name for the phenomenon; he was merely irritated by it. But a few years after he published his thoughts, a graduate student who chanced upon his paper in a Hebrew University seminar became intrigued. Could it be, wondered Baruch Fischhoff, that this was a pervasive bias in our judgment and decision making—and one that Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who were then developing the entire field of biases and heuristics, had yet to unearth? It could, and it was. Fischhoff would devote much of the next thirty years to developing the idea that has since become known as hindsight bias, our perfect, 20/20 vision for the past—and the related belief that what has become obvious in retrospect was obvious all along.

Read the whole story: Scientific American

See Daniel Kahneman at the 25th APS Annual Convention.

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