Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hindsight Bias

Hello again, friends. Well, I'm not back in New York yet, but fortunately, I have uncovered another thing that I learned in New York. How exciting to be writing again.

But before I talk about what I learned in New York, I need to talk about something I learned in San Luis Obispo. It's called the hindsight bias. It's a psychological phenomenon that makes you think you always knew something when you just learned it. For example, right now you may be thinking "Yeah, I knew that people think they always knew stuff that when they just learn it." Ha! That's the hindsight bias about the hindsight bias. How meta.

With that little tidbit on our mind grapes, let's proceed to what I did learn in New York.

I suppose I'll begin with the story that made me realize I had just learned something in New York that I thought I had always known. I was on BART riding back to the 'burbs, when I tall man who--though not particularly impressive physically-- wore toughness on his face, began rambling some utter nonsense and commenting that if we could translate what he said we were truly gifted. He then, of course, decided to flirt with all of the young women on the train. Enter the second character of our story: a man with the head of Justin Timberlake (circa 2000) and the arms of Arnold Schwarzenegger (circa 1987). Apparently he didn't think the first guy should talk to strangers.

As we waited at the Castro Valley station, their disagreement escalated from a polite "move along" to a "Dude, I'm a boxer, do you seriously want to step outside?" Thankfully for those of us who are not into watching grown men hit each other (okay, without pads at least), the incident ended without violence. Then the second guy commented to me that he couldn't believe that guy. Who could believe that some random guy would start talking to everyone on the train and spouting nonsense?

Um... anyone who has been on a train in New York. Ever.

See, I assumed that I had always known that people are crazy and that crazy people harass people on trains. But perhaps that's not actually the case. I guess that's something I learned in New York. The hindsight bias strikes again.

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