Saturday, December 10, 2011

Hindsight Bias

"Hindsight is always 20/20" - Explanation: Hindsight refers to looking at things in the past, while 20/20 (twenty/twenty) refers to the quality of your eyesight, with 20/20 being the "nominal performance for human distance vision" (from Wikipedia). The cleverness of this quotation implies that the accuracy of hindsight is always perfect in that we can usually see what we should have done.

At any one moment, how much do we KNOW the answer? Hindsight bias seems to play a crucial part in life as there are times when we tell ourselves what we 'should have done'. Unfortunately, how do we know what we 'should' do until we do it? In badminton, coaching, especially during the match is based a lot on this hindsight bias. Coaches usually tell you what you 'should have done' after a rally. Though there are some great coaches that will tell you other things very relevent to the game, I find that there's quite a lot of trust involved with players and their coaches. During a badminton rally, it's very similar to gambling, or an even better example, investing money. There are always safe shots and risky shots just as there are safe investments and risky ones. A great coach is like a great stock broker, giving you a better insight into how you want to pursue your 'game', though you are the one who still makes that choice in the end. Sometimes the risky shot pays off, sometimes it's best to take the safe way. Every now and then a gamble is fine, but when the going gets tough, do you really want to take that risk? Well, I guess it depends on the person. However, it would be foolish to assume you would know the answer, because until the results happen, it really is anybody's game... in badminton or in the financial world.

Although my main point has pretty much been said, we can delve on a little further. When it comes to teaching or learning (depends on which part you play), it's nice to have the answers, but not knowing how you get there, well, maybe you'd be as smart as a fifth grader. I'm not trying to insult anyone, but I was just referring to the game show, "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?" The show is quite meaningless, as apparently, 5th Graders are presented with a bunch of facts to memorize, making it a trivia show like Jeopardy with 5th Grade subjects. It's kind of like looking at the back of a Math/Physics book for the final answer is very little help in solving an actual problem. When playing badminton, rallies are structured and you may notice a much broader structure at higher levels of play. At much lower levels, there is much more risk taking, trying to get something for almost nothing. At times it pays off, but for some players, they are fooled when they believe that their risky shots are consistent shots. Many times, without video review, a player may forget how often he/she makes an error, while only remembering the times he/she succeeded. This can be related to gambling. Someone who may believe he/she wins may have deluded him/herself that they have made money in the long run. Coming out with wins 4 out of 5 nights is great, until you realize the money you lost on one night may be the same, if not more than the 4 times you won. 

And sometimes, we can take life lessons from badminton. At the highest levels, defense doesn't consist of a single shot. Defense usually takes a few shots, slowly trying to neutralize the rally first, then trying to see if an advantage is possible. Higher level teams have the patience to slowly work at defense to neutralize the rally, maybe go back on defense, and keep repeating until they can get a chance to attack. In terms of investment strategies or recovering from debt, it'd be foolish to assume that there is one strategic investment or something that can neutralize or put you at an advantage in one fell swoop. It may seem like there is one with the hindsight bias, but in that one moment, it generally isn't worth the risk. Like in badminton, defense is hard work: you're constantly scrambling to keep the shuttle in play, you're under pressure, but if you have had the practice, keep your composure, and play patiently, you will probably better your odds at a comeback. Though there are times you will still fail, at least you will be on track to recovery.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle"

With everything said so far, I still review my footage and watch for errors in my games. Even though there is hindsight bias, things I knew I 'should have done', I need to be aware of trends in my matches. Prevention is usually the key, because there really is no treatment for losing a rally. If we all considered our health in this respect, I'm sure there would be much less sick people and a strain to our healthcare system. However, let's not be fooled though, trends are just trends and they will change. For example, if you have been flipping a coin and it lands as heads 10 times in a row, what would you bet on? Would you bet that it'd be an unbelievable 11 times in a row, or are things bound to change and land as tails? The answer is simple, the odds are still 50/50, so it really could be either or. However, it's easy to convince yourself into believing that it should be tails as the odds should 'even out' because they should be 50/50 and 11 coin flips should be about 6 heads, 5 tails or vice versa. Being aware of trends in badminton make it a different game, as playing someone for the first time is quite different from playing them for the 10th time. Especially with training partners and you know each others' games, I'm sure it may cross your mind, "Will they hit this shot like they usually do, or will they know that I'm looking for it and try to change it?" Then you get into a guessing game or more scientifically, 'Game Theory' which is quite interesting, but something we could talk about next time.

So to conclude another non-sensical blog posting, we should not be fooled by hindsight bias and perhaps the best way to face a particular situation is with prevention. As for proper prevention, you would need to know what you're doing, preferrably WHY you do things the way you do. In badminton, training is important to practice defense, let's say, but knowing when to lift, when to drive, what to look for, how to hit the shuttle properly, along with other fine technical details in stroke, stance, etc may help a lot more than simply just 'getting the shuttle over the net'. At least for my own personal functioning, I would like to know how to do something because I want to do it well. With gambling, investing, etc. proper knowledge and research would definitely help. Maybe you could get lucky, but especially if your money is important to you, just as badminton is important to me, being prepared is key.

Hope you enjoyed the read :)

“May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far” - Irish Blessings quote (

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