The Survivorship Bias

The Survivorship Bias

An interesting mental model helps us to learn from mistakes and be better.

Photo by Daniel Eledut on Unsplash

Human Psychology is an interesting topic for me, I like to read about it. I am curious about how our mind thinks, nature and nurture, Mental Models, and Biases.

Over the weekend when I was reading about biases, I came across a fascinating concept and an interesting story related to it.

The concept is known as “Survivorship Bias”.

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

The story dates back to World War 2. During World War 2, Abraham Wald, a statistician examining World War 2 airplanes along with his research group from the Columbia University. They would examine the planes that have survived and returned, and while building the new planes, they would add an extra layer of protection to the places where the planes got hit. They followed this as a common practice until Abraham Wald realized that these were the planes that returned despite those hits, thus the smarter move was to reinforce everything else but the hit spots as those are the ones that took the planes down. It changes the way air battle is carried out, hence the name “Survivorship Bias”.

But what’s the point of this story.

The story tells us that only the success stories are celebrated and there are countless failure stories that are ignored so before judging your life with the success stories you find around you, think that there are plenty of failures that are hidden from the world.

Do not compare your life with the success stories of others, not every college drop-out is as successful as Bill Gates, there are plenty of college drop-outs struggling for the basic needs of a person. Not every Instagrammer’s life is as perfect as it’s shown on their profiles. There are plenty of failures before that one most-celebrated “Eureka” moment.

“Don’t look just at what you can see. Consider all the things that started on the same path but didn’t make it.” — FS Blog.

Instead of trying to replicate someone else’s success story, try and learn from the failures of countless people who took the same path that you are planning to take.

Thank you for reading.

This article is published from one of my LinkedIn posts that you can read here: