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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2011 Mar;37(2):378-91. doi: 10.1037/a0021971.

Hindsight bias from 3 to 95 years of age.

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Department of Psychology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 12666-72nd Avenue, Surrey, British Columbia, V3W 2M8 Canada.

Erratum in

  • J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2011 May;37(3):800.


Upon learning the outcome to a problem, people tend to believe that they knew it all along (hindsight bias). Here, we report the first study to trace the development of hindsight bias across the life span. One hundred ninety-four participants aged 3 to 95 years completed 3 tasks designed to measure visual and verbal hindsight bias. All age groups demonstrated hindsight bias on all 3 tasks; however, preschoolers and older adults exhibited more bias than older children and younger adults. Multinomial processing tree analyses of these data revealed that preschoolers' enhanced hindsight bias resulted from them substituting the correct answer for their original answer in their recall (a qualitative error). Conversely, older adults' enhanced hindsight bias resulted from them forgetting their original answer and recalling an answer closer to, but not equal to, the correct answer (a quantitative error). We discuss these findings in relation to mechanisms of memory, perspective taking, theory of mind, and executive function.

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