Knowledge updating in real-world estimation: connecting hindsight bias and seeding effects

Julia Gross*, Barbara Kreis, Hartmut Blank, Thorsten Pachur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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When people estimate the quantities of objects (e.g., country populations), are then presented with the objects’ actual quantities, and subsequently asked to remember their initial estimates, responses are often distorted towards the actual quantities. This hindsight bias—traditionally considered to reflect a cognitive error—has more recently been proposed to result from adaptive knowledge updating. But how to conceptualize such knowledge-updating processes and their potentially beneficial consequences? Here we provide a framework that conceptualizes knowledge updating in the context of hindsight bias in real-world estimation by connecting it with research on seeding effects—improvements in people’s estimation accuracy after exposure to numerical facts. This integrative perspective highlights a previously neglected facet of knowledge updating, namely, recalibration of metric domain knowledge, which can be expected to lead to transfer learning and thus improve estimation for objects from a domain more generally. We develop an experimental paradigm to investigate the association of hindsight bias with improved estimation accuracy. In Experiment 1, we demonstrate that the classical approach to triggering hindsight bias indeed produces transfer learning. In Experiment 2, we provide evidence for the novel prediction that hindsight bias can be triggered via transfer learning; this establishes a direct link from knowledge updating to hindsight bias. Our work integrates two prominent but previously unconnected research programs on the effects of knowledge updating in real-world estimation and supports the notion that hindsight bias is driven by adaptive learning processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Early online date3 Aug 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 3 Aug 2023


  • hindsight bias
  • judgment
  • real-world estimation
  • seeding effects
  • transfer of knowledge

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