Some Moral Judgments May Be Immune to Hindsight Bias

Marielle G. Machacek

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, March 27, 2015.


Decades of hindsight bias has shown it to be a robust phenomenon exhibited in many different hypothetical and real-world situations. Two competing models of hindsight bias, the cognitive sense-making model and the motivational model, were used to predict hindsight bias effects for a situation dealing with strongly polarized opinions. Participants read about a physician who prescribed medical marijuana to a child with self-injurious behaviors and then received a positive outcome, negative outcome, or no outcome at all (control group). Those holding a negative view of illegal drugs exhibited hindsight bias following both positive (d = 1.13) and negative outcomes (d = .36). Those with a positive view of illegal drugs showed no hindsight effect for either positive (d = .19) or negative outcomes (d =.09). Participants exhibiting the bias appear to have had less extreme views than those who showed no hindsight bias. Results are partially consistent with previous research that examined motivational and sense-making components of hindsight bias. Future research should focus on examining different strongly held beliefs (e.g., attitudes towards the death penalty or gun control laws) to further understand the mechanisms associated with hindsight bias judgments.