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#10 - Telescopic Bias

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Article written by
Juan Jesús Millo

Writing of the week

This effect, or telescopic bias, is the perception we have of memories being inaccurate, varying the duration and frequency of these.

How many times have you been to the movies last year? Most likely the participant will include memories from the year before that or even the current year. There are therefore, two types of telescopic effect:

  • Backwards: we believe that events have occurred longer ago, when they have occurred more recently.
  • Forward: events that have occurred long ago, we believe have occurred recently.

There are two unproven theories of the telescopic effect; one on the theory of time compression, which says that we perceive time as much shorter than it is, and the theory of variance, which explains that we always have some uncertainty about past memories, and this uncertainty grows with respect to the distance of the memory.

All this leads us to two conclusions:

- When we ask in a survey or interview a user, we have to be very careful, because this bias implies an overestimation of frequency. How many times did you go to the movies last year? Events that occurred late last year and early this year will be included in the participant's estimate.

- Participants modify their answers to match their current beliefs about what they are being asked.

How do we minimize this bias? By asking a proper question, being specific about what you are being asked to answer and clearly defining the period of interest

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