Hindsight bias causally decreases trust in government: Evidence from the United States
People often believe ex-post that an outcome was obvious from the very beginning, a tendency called hindsight bias. While theory predicts that hindsight bias distorts ex-post evaluations of others' actions, causal evidence on such an effect is absent. In an incentivized experiment in March and April 2020 with 778 participants, we show that during the first wave of Covid-19 in the United States, people systematically misremember their own past belief about how to best fight the coronavirus: In April 2020, at the peak of the first wave, participants think they were already supporting stricter measures at the onset of the first wave in March 2020, even though they did not. Further, our experimental design allows us to exploit experimentally induced variation in the extent of hindsight bias to document a causal effect of hindsight bias on trust in the government: As the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded, stronger hindsight bias with respect to the policy measures a participant believed should have been implemented in March 2020 causes significantly lower trust in the government.