AskDefine | Define hindsight

Dictionary Definition

hindsight n : understanding the nature of an event after it has happened; "hindsight is always better than foresight"

User Contributed Dictionary



  • /ˈhaɪndsaɪt/
  • Rhymes: -aɪt


  1. Realisation or understanding of the significance and nature of events after they have occurred
    ''When you read "Seven Little Rabbits" at age 6 and read it again 15 years later, the hindsight you've developed in the time between will make you look at and think of the book much differently than you did the first time!''
  2. The rear sight of a firearm


after-the-fact realisation or understanding
the phrase "in hindsight"
  • German: im Nachhinein

Extensive Definition

Hindsight bias is the inclination to see events that have occurred as more predictable than they in fact were before they took place. Hindsight bias has been demonstrated experimentally in a variety of settings, including politics, games and medicine. In psychological experiments of hindsight bias, subjects also tend to remember their predictions of future events as having been stronger than they actually were, in those cases where those predictions turn out correct.
Prophecy that is recorded after the fact is an example of hindsight bias, given its own rubric, as vaticinium ex eventu.
One explanation of the bias is the availability heuristic; the event that did occur is more salient in one's mind than the possible outcomes that did not.
It has been shown that examining possible alternatives may reduce the effects of this bias.

Classic studies

Paul Lazarsfeld (1949): Lazarsfeld gave participants interpretive statements that seemed like common sense immediately after they were read, but in actuality the opposite was true.
Karl Teigen (1986): Teigen gave participants proverbs to evaluate. When participants were given the proverb "Fear is stronger than love", most students would rate it as true; when given its opposite ("Love is stronger than fear"), most would also rate that as true.


The following common phrases are expressions or terms for hindsight bias:
  • "I told you so!"
  • "With the wisdom of hindsight."
  • Retrospective foresight
  • 20/20 Hindsight
  • Monday morning quarterback


  • Bernstein, Michael André. (1994). Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Fischhoff, B. & Beyth, R. (1975). "I knew it would happen": Remembered probabilities of once-future things. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 13, 1-16.
  • García Landa, José Ángel. (2004) "The Hermeneutic Spiral from Schleiermacher to Goffman: Retroactive Thematization, Interaction, and Interpretation." BELL (Belgian English Language and Literature) ns 2: 155-66.
  • Memory (2003). Special issue on Hindsight Bias, ed. Ulrich Hoffrage and Rüdiger F. Pohl).11.4/5.
  • Morson, Gary Saul. (1994). Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Meyers, David G. (2005). Social Psychology. Boston: McGraw Hill (p. 18-19).
  • Social Cognition (2007). Special issue on the Hindsight Bias, ed. Hartmut Blank, Jochen Musch & Rüdiger F. Pohl, Vol 25 (1).

External links

hindsight in German: Rückschaufehler
hindsight in Spanish: Prejuicio de retrospectiva
hindsight in French: Biais rétrospectif
hindsight in Polish: Efekt pewności wstecznej
hindsight in Russian: Хиндсайт

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

commitment to memory, exercise of memory, flashback, learning by heart, looking back, memoir, memorization, memorizing, recall, recalling, recollecting, recollection, reconsideration, reflection, remembering, remembrance, reminiscence, retrospect, retrospection, review, rote, rote memory, study
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