Hindsight Bias In The Media: Talking While Driving

What’s more dangerous: texting and driving or talking on a headset and driving?

If I told you that texting and driving was more dangerous, I predict you’d say, “Well, duh. That’s obvious. Everyone knows that.” But what if I told you the opposite? Would you say the same thing?

Well, you don’t need to, because some joker at Scientific American has done it for you:

After describing a recent study that found that texting by hand and hands-free by voice were equally bad for driving in “Crash Text Dummies” [TechnoFiles], David Pogue writes that “the results surprised me.” It would, in fact, be very surprising if they had showed any difference: the reason that driving performance is impaired when people are making phone calls and texting, hands-free or not, is that such tasks require attention. That’s why a sensible driver would, say, stop talking when navigating a curvy ramp.

This kinda thing gets my blood pressure up. It’s a prime example of hindsight bias in the media. Researchers report something unexpected and then people say, “Well, duh. Everyone knows that!” Except they would produce the exact same response if the researchers had found the opposite.

I can invent explanations for anything, but I don’t mistake my brain’s fairy tales for reality.

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