He told you so


Saipan — By the time you read this, it is likely that we’re still observing social-distancing rules, and a curfew remains in place. Many businesses are still closed or operating for a few hours only. We’re still wearing faces masks and/or gloves when we go out — if we go out.

Etc. etc. etc.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal in March, Jason Zweig “predicted” that our memory of the Covid-19-induced crash of 2020 won’t be a recollection. It will be a reconstruction, he said, and it will begin with such words and phrases as “Clearly…” or “It was obvious to me that…” or “Everybody knew that…”

Zweig is describing hindsight bias — “the belief, after something happens, that we foresaw that it would occur.” It is this persistent habit of thought, he added, that keeps us from learning from mistakes and leads us to pay too much attention to unreliable forecasts.

“Don’t let yourself be fooled into believing it’s unusual that nobody knows what’s going on right now,” Zweig wrote. “The past makes sense only in retrospect, after our minds burnish it to our liking. The present almost always defies our efforts to make sense of it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In his delightful 2013 book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, Rodolf Dobelli devoted a chapter to hindsight bias which he describes as the “I told you so” phenomenon — “one of the most prevailing fallacies of all.”