He won the Election? I knew it all along
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The economy, debate performances, the candidates' personalities. Roll it all together, and it's obvious who's going to win.
Or, uh, it will be.
Amid the many uncertainties of the US presidential election lies one sure thing: Many people will feel in their gut that they knew the result all along. Not only felt it coming, but swear they predicted it beforehand and probably more than once.
These analysts won't be hard to find. They will most likely include (in addition to news media pundits) neighbours, friends, as well as the person whose reflection appears in the glare of the laptop screen. Most will also have a ready-made argument for why it was inevitable that Mitt Romney, or President Barack Obama, won—displaying the sort of false, after-the-fact "foresight" that psychologists call hindsight bias.
"The important thing to know about hindsight bias is that it not only changes how you see the world, but also how you see yourself in it," said Neal Roese, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who just published a review paper on the bias with Kathleen D. Vohs of the University of Minnesota. "You begin to think: 'Hey, I'm good. I'm really good at figuring out what's going to happen.' You begin to see outcomes as inevitable that were not."
Long the province of political scientists, historians and pollsters, voters' behaviour has more recently attracted the attention of psychologists. The most obvious carry-over to politics is confirmation bias, the reflexive instinct to begin with an assumption—say, that poor people are lazy—and notice only evidence that's supportive.
Hindsight bias is close to the reverse. People retrofit their opinions and judgments to the evidence, in this case to an election result, but just as often to a political decision that went wrong. Of course it was clear that Saddam Hussein was bluffing about weapons of mass destruction. Anyone could have seen that.
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