Reflections on the intersection of economics, history, politics, psychology and science

How Hindsight Bias is not just an academic concept, but rather a critical flaw in human’s ability to think critically and avoid logical fallacies, particularly in issues of crime and gun rights.

Hindsight Bias is the notion that an event was predictable even though logically it would have been difficult to envisage beforehand. Whenever someone says “I knew it all along”, they probably didn’t know it all along and are suffering from hindsight bias. It is always easier to see patterns in hindsight, giving us the illusion that it was obvious all along.

Hindsight bias also clouds our ability to recognize that in any given event, there is a wide asymmetry of information among people involved – this manifests itself most evidently in crime where the perpetrator has much more information than the victim as he/she has knowledge of the intent and the specifics of the crime. 

This phenomenon is the center of a key fallacy in debating gun rights and gun control, because people all too easily – and erroneously – envision a situation where they may want to defend themselves if attacked or if their home is broken into. However, they neglect to realize that the story doesn’t start at the time of hypothetical need for the gun, but rather much earlier when one decides to own a gun – and that very action almost always creates a much greater risk of danger than the value from the incredibly small likelihood of the weapon being used as intended.

A combination of Hindsight Bias, Starting Point Bias, a Prisoner’s Dilemma, and the avoidance of Cognitive Dissonance conspire to perpetuate logically flawed debates around everything from arming teachers to needing to protect oneself from the government itself.

Key Terms Used

Boiling Frog, Cognitive Dissonance, False Choice, Hindsight Bias, Prisoner’s Dilemma, Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Public Good, Starting Point Bias

Related Resources

Hindsight Bias and the Logical Fallacies in the Gun Debate