Date of Graduation

Spring 2015


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

Harry Hom


This study is an examination of the relationship between hindsight bias and posttraumatic guilt. There is some evidence that guilt following a trauma is caused, at least in part, by the hindsight bias. However, the researchers behind this theory have not tested this theory utilizing the hypothetical experimental design for hindsight bias or tested their conception of hindsight bias in terms of foreseeability and inevitability. This study attempted to do just that. Participants were presented with a scenario about a friend in a car accident. Participants in the foresight group received no outcome. Participants in the hindsight groups were told the outcome of the scenario (the friend died) and were then divided into four different groups: Guilt, No Guilt, List, No List. After reading their respective outcomes, half of the hindsight participants were instructed to list two alternative outcomes to the scenario. Previous research has demonstrated that this exercise can reduce or eliminate the hindsight bias. Participants did not demonstrate the hindsight bias in this study, and no support for previous research was obtained. The foresight group regularly expressed more distress and guilt cognitions than the hindsight group. Comparing hindsight groups revealed that listing two alternative outcomes caused participants to judge the outcome as less inevitable but not less foreseeable. This study suggests that the link between hindsight bias and posttraumatic guilt may not be a simple causal relationship, as previous research has suggested.


hindsight bias, guilt, posttraumatic guilt, foreseeability, inevitability

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© Jessica Frances Johnson

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