Individual differences in reverse Hindsight bias: I never thought something like chernobyl would happen. Did I?

Bas Verplanken, Rik G.M. Pieters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hindsight bias was studied in the context of the accident in the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which took place on April 26th 1986. An individual difference factor which relates to the motivation to process information, need for cognition, was expected to moderate the occurrence of hindsight bias. Probability estimates of many casualties due to the use of nuclear power in The Netherlands were obtained from 212 individuals two months before the accident in Chernobyl. These estimates were compared with similar estimates made in hindsight by the same individuals five months after the accident. Loglinear Analyses reveal a systematic hindsight bias. However, the direction of the bias was contrary to expectations. In hindsight, individuals gave lower probabilities than they actually did two months before the Chernobyl accident. These results reveal a reverse hindsight bias. As hypothesized, need for cognition moderates hindsight bias: individuals low and medium in need for cognition express a systematic reverse hindsight bias, while individuals high in need for cognition do not. High need for cognition individuals also show higher literal consistency between the two measurements, which supports a memory explanation of the moderating effect of need for cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-147
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1988


  • Hindsight bias
  • Moderating variables Chernobyl
  • Need for Cognition
  • Subjective probabilities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management


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