Science fiction uses scientific language as a form of artistic expression. With that in mind, today’s post is part of a series here on Planet Pailly called Sciency Words. Every Friday, I’ll bring you a new and interesting scientific word to help us all expand our scientific vocabularies together. Today’s word is:
Recency bias: (noun) the human tendency to place greater emphasis and importance on recent events rather than events farther back in time. Whenever a piece of good news or bad news seems to overshadow everything that ever happened before, that’s recency bias at work.
You might notice the effects of recency bias on the stock market, where the slight change in the value of a stock today is perceived as more significant than the greater, gradual changes that occurred over the course of a year. You’ll also catch it in political commentaries whenever you hear someone claim that the current President, Congress, etc is the best/worst in history. It can also come up in sports, art, literature… pretty much anything.
You might even encounter recency bias in your own life. I often experience it whenever I have writer’s block. My difficulty composing one stupid sentence for a current writing project somehow convinces me that I suck at writing and at life, despite the fact that I’ve had writer’s block before and despite the fact that I always find a way to get through it.
Of course it is always possible that, when the stock market starts slipping, that it really does mean the economy is about the collapse. It’s also possible that our current political leaders are the best or worst ever, or that the newest rookie player for your favorite sports team really will change the game forever. These things are possible… but kind of unlikely.
So before you jump to conclusions, check yourself for recency bias. Make sure you’re not just thinking about the latest headlines or your most current headache. Just remember to keep things in the context of history.
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Did you already know this word? If so, please share another sciency word in the comments below. That way, we can all keep expanding our sciency vocabularies together!