What Determines Hindsight Bias in Written Work? One Field and Three Experimental Studies in the Context of Wikipedia
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Description: Hindsight bias not only occurs in individual perception, but in written work (e.g., Wikipedia articles) as well. To avoid the possibility that biased written representations of events distort the views of broad audiences, one needs to understand the factors that determine hindsight bias in written work. Therefore, we tested the effect of three potential determinants: the extent to which an event evokes sense-making motivation, the availability of verifiable causal information regarding the event, and the provision of content policies. We conducted one field study examining real Wikipedia articles (N = 40) and three preregistered experimental studies in which participants wrote or edited articles based on different material (total N = 720). In each experiment, we systematically varied one determinant. Findings provide further – and even more general – support that Wikipedia articles about various events contain hindsight bias. The magnitude of hindsight bias in written work was contingent on the sense-making motivation and the availability of causal information. We did not find support for the effect of content policies. Findings are in line with causal model theory and suggest that some types and topics of written work might be particularly biased by hindsight (e.g., coverage of disasters, research reports, written expert opinions).