Survivorship Bias: Dangerous Logical Fallacy

by | Jul 25, 2020 | Psychology | 0 comments

Without us knowing it, maybe we have been or even are trapped in a logical fallacy. It often happens, even it commonly occurs in our thinking. It’s the survivorship bias.

Before we get into the discussion, first, try to answer the questions below to test whether you are one of the people who have this way of thinking.

World War II Aircraft

Consider the following picture:

bias kebertahanan
Copyright: McGeddon – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

In preparing for the second world war, one of the camps planned to find out how ready their war equipment was before the war began. They tested the readiness of their fighter aircraft by flying 5 of 200 aircraft. Several troops tasked to fire on the aircraft. After the simulation, it was found that only 1 plane remained that survived the experiment.

Survivors were found in full firing conditions on the wings, midsection, and tail of the plane. It is exactly like in the picture above). Based on the results of the simulation, which parts of the other aircraft need to be improved?

If you answer the part that needs to be improved is the part that was shot, it means you are one of the people with this survivorship bias way of thinking.

Based on this case, you only see the successful results (one plane that was not shot down) and ignore the other results. Even though in this case the part that was shot in the picture above is actually the strongest. It’s proofed by the fact that although that part of the plane is shot, the plane still survived. However, what about 4 other aircraft that did not survive? It could be because the part that was shot is at the front of the plane and other parts of the plane.

So that the answer from which part of the aircraft needs improvement in order to be more resistant to fire is the front and other parts other than the part that was shot in the picture above.

What Is Survivorship Bias?

From Brilliant.org, survival bias or survivorship bias is a type of selection bias where the results or survivors of certain results are disproportionately evaluated. The results that fail or not survived will be ignored. In short, survivorship bias is a condition of the logical fallacy of thinking where one only sees the successful results and ignores the failures.

Danger of Survivorship Bias

Survivorship bias will be very dangerous and can have a negative impact on your life. Just by seeing the results of survivors and ignoring those who fail will make you blind to the real facts and other possibilities that could have happened. This way of thinking is often causing mistakes when making conclusions and preventing you from understanding well the true potential you have which will prevent you from going to success.

Other Examples of Survivorship Bias

1. What are vaccines for, can’t ancient people live without vaccines?

It is one of the questions that has often been asked. The truth is, people used to be very susceptible to various kinds of diseases. It is only people with strong immune were able to survive. Just seeing based on people who managed to survive alone certainly cannot be used as a basis that vaccines do not need to be done.

2 .An old song is better than a nowadays song.

Are the songs from earlier times that you hear only songs that were popularized by famous artists only? Have you heard other songs that are less popular too? Everyone has different tastes of music, so the answer will depend on how your music tastes are.

3. Successful businessmen like Mark Zuckerberg must drop out of school to realize his dream.

Did you know that there are many people out there who are also trying to reach their dreams but failed? And even have to drop out of school but also failed?

Conclusion

Survivorship bias is a logical fallacy where one only sees a chance of success or “survivor” and ignores the failure. Survivorship bias can blind us to all possibilities that might occur and cause mistakes when making decisions. To overcome this, try to think realistically and see based on not only from one point of view. Knowing and understanding well your potential and abilities is also one of the ways you can avoid getting caught up in this biased survivorship thinking.

Source and Reference:

  1. Survivorship Bias – Brilliant

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