What is it about?

This research demonstrates that written work (e.g., Wikipedia articles) can be biased by hindsight: After an event happened, written work is more suggestive of the event, mistakenly describing it as more foreseeable and inevitable than it had been. The stronger the need for explanation and the more causal information available, the more biased the writing. These findings are important because biased writing can bias the views of many people.

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Why is it important?

In the present research, we aimed to examine under which circumstances hindsight bias enters written work. This is an important research question as it might not only inform our theorizing about the mechanisms underlying hindsight bias in written event representations, but it may also contribute to a more accurate representation of the world. Specifically, reading biased written event accounts can elicit or increase an already existent hindsight bias in readers (Oeberst et al., 2014, 2018; Meuer, von der Beck, et al., 2021; von der Beck et al., 2017). Believing that an event was more likely, more inevitable, and more foreseeable than it actually was can cause overconfidence concerning one’s knowledge and abilities (Cassar & Craig, 2009; Bradfield & Wells, 2005; Granhag et al., 2000) and unwarranted attributions of responsibility and blame (Carli, 1999; Hastie et al., 1999; Harley, 2007). Knowing the factors that determine hindsight bias in written work, in turn, might help to find potential strategies to avoid or reduce article hindsight bias and its negative impact on the individual representation of events. In addition, since hindsight bias in written work might also depend on the specific writing context of authors, the present research draws on one concrete type of writing for which hindsight bias has already been documented: Wikipedia articles (Oeberst et al., 2018). With more than 56 million articles in 321 language editions and 1.7 billion unique active user devices per month (Wikimedia Statistics, 2021; “Wikipedia”, 2021), Wikipedia is the most comprehensive and most widely used online encyclopedia (Similarweb, n.d.). Therefore, biased Wikipedia articles might distort the views of broad audiences and assessing the determinants of hindsight bias in Wikipedia articles is thus of practical relevance.

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This page is a summary of: What determines hindsight bias in written work? One field and three experimental studies in the context of Wikipedia., Journal of Experimental Psychology Applied, August 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xap0000445.
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