A hindsight bias in psychology is defined as a false belief that one should have known the outcome of an event. This occurs due to the constructive processes of memory in the brain. Once we know a piece of information, it’s impossible for us to imagine what it’s like not to know it. I experience this often, especially during tests in school.
During the test, I’ll rack my brain for the answer to a question, but find nothing. This may be due to retrieval problems I encounter, where I know I studied a piece of information and it is almost as if I can picture the answer in my head, but I cannot access the memory. I’ll eventually accept that I don’t know the particular answer, and guess, and move on.
After the test, I’ll be so curious as to what the correct answer was, I’ll rush to my book and my notes to look it up. I can usually recall the exact page where I read the information I needed, and the second I see the words, it all comes back to me. Reading over the information again, I feel incredibly stupid for not knowing the answer. All those memories that were, so to say, ‘at the tip of my tongue’, suddenly become solidified in my mind, and I can’t imagine not knowing the answer to that question in retrospect. If I ever received the same test question again, I feel confident that I would know the correct answer. However, the only reason I feel this way is because through paying closer attention to right information, I formed a better memory. I’m biased looking back at the test question, and I always feel like I should have been able to recall that memory.
I think the hindsight bias helps me in the long run. Obviously the information presented on exams is there for a reason: it’s important. By going back and re-studying the questions that stump me on the test, I form a more solid connection with the information in my brain. My memory of the answer improves, and once I learn it, I’ll never completely lose that information. This helps me become more knowledgeable overall. Though it’s frustrating to not be able to recall things on command all of the time, the hindsight bias allows me to remember more things for longer periods of time. It’s much harder to forget information that you, at one point, didn’t know , which cost you your perfect grade on a test, than information that came easily to your recalled memory. I seem to remember those things that I really have to work for more effectively than things that just come and go for a single exam.