Hindsight bias: the knew-it-all-along phenomenon

Historians and physicians alike are constantly fighting an invisible beast: the hindsight bias, also known as creeping determinism, which is the tendency for people to perceive past outcomes as having been more predictable than they actually were. Linked to distortions of our memories, the hindsight bias causes us to think we knew how an event …

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The state of personal knowledge management

Everyday, new tools for thought are launched. The personal knowledge management ecosystem is becoming incredibly complex. However, some visible trends are emerging: indie thinkers are making a living from conducting online research; tools are becoming more integrated; apps encourage active creation over passive collection of knowledge. This 40-page report reviews the current state of the …

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The hermeneutic circle: a key to critical reading

For a text to be interpreted, you need a text and an interpreter. This may seem obvious, but too often we forget that our interpretation of a text is shaped by our pre-existing beliefs, knowledge, and expectations. Hermeneutics is the branch of research that deals with interpretation. When we interpret a text, it’s not a …

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Jumping to conclusions: the inference-observation confusion

Do you know someone who always seems to jump to conclusions? While this behaviour may be more obvious in some people than in others, we are all prone to it. In fact, doctors themselves often jump to conclusions: “Most incorrect diagnoses are due to physicians’ misconceptions of their patients, not technical mistakes like a faulty …

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Survivorship bias: when failure gets forgotten

We all know that one chain-smoker who lived an old, healthy life. We read everyday about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg—college dropouts who started billion-dollar companies. And we tend to attribute our own success to dedication rather than luck. These are all typical examples of survivorship bias. Survivorship bias is a common bias …

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How to practice nuanced thinking

“This is just wrong.” How many times have you heard that phrase during a heated conversation? Such categorical statements never seem to help in coming to an agreement, or at least to create opportunities to learn. Whether at an interpersonal level or at a broader scale, a lack of nuanced thinking can have a significant …

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How to think better

As Einstein wrote in 1936: “All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.” Why is it that a skill as important as thinking is not a key focus in traditional schools? Why don’t we have classes on decision-making, cognitive biases, and mental models? Can we learn how to think better? It’s …

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Pre-mortem: how to anticipate failure with prospective hindsight

Most people are familiar with post-mortem documentation, where team members come together at the conclusion of a project to record what went well and what didn’t. Fewer people have performed a pre-mortem before the start of a project. A pre-mortem is an exercise where we imagine that a project has failed, and where we work …

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How to evaluate the validity and reliability of your mental models

Mental models are shortcuts for reasoning. They are a set of ideas and beliefs that we consciously or unconsciously form based on our experiences to shape our representation of how the world works. While mental models are extremely useful to make decisions in times of uncertainty, they are still shortcuts—which can be harmful if we …

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Temporal discounting: the battle between present and future self

As humans, we tend to favour our present self at the expense of our future self. Our present self will eat an extra piece of cake, skip a training session, drink too much, stay up late, or procrastinate; our future self is left dealing with the consequences. This phenomenon is called temporal discounting. The further …

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