Stats and facts create readers

Carrying on this week’s look at how psychology can have an impact in creating readers and improving the use of libraries I want to have a look at hindsight bias.

The idea behind hindsight bias is the belief that we as individuals, when confronted with new information, treat it as though we already knew this. This is instead of the misconception that we look back and see how arrogant and wrong we used to be.

The reason we do this is because we edit our memories to make sure that we don’t look or feel stupid. Numerous studies have taken place to prove this effect one of which having been undertaken in Oslo where students were given a number of proverbs including things such as ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. When asked about these all the students comments that of course this was obvious. It’s just common sense. The study then gave the same students another set of proverbs including ‘if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it probably is a duck.’ Again asked about this the students again agreed that it was obvious and just common sense. So what is it then? What’s true? And what’s going on?

Hindsight bias is a very relation to availability heuristics which states that you make decisions based on the information you have at hand whilst ignoring all the other information that might be out there. What this means is that you make decisions based on what you now know rather than what you used to know.

So how can we use this information in our schools and libraries to take advantage of this and create more readers.

Well, to me, what this means is that we need think about how we can use the numerous studies and evidence around reading and position this around our schools. If young people are coming up against this kind of research, telling them the positive effects of reading, then this is the information they have at hand. If these appear in all classrooms, in all corridors then students will regularly be told that reading is a positive thing.

This means we need to think about our advertising in places outside of the normal library space. We need to think outside of the four walls of the library and make sure that students are have this positive reading statements to help them make the decision that reading is going to be a good thing for them.

If we can do this then we continue to use psychology to improve reading and library usage.


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