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Ever had a moment where something happens and you reacted by saying “I knew that was going to happen!”? Imagine that you behaved that way for every major event that happens in your life. Scary, right? Try telling (arguably) the biggest victim of hindsight bias, BLEACH’s own Sosuke Aizen, that. Being someone like Aizen doesn’t really bode well for one’s life since something more powerful than Bankai will make its presence felt: stagnation.
Everything started with Aizen back in Volume 20 when he revealed himself to be the big bad guy. He explained that he knew what was going to happen to Rukia Kuchiki when she entered the real world in the very beginning of the series and set everything up in order to get to her in Soul Society. During the Hueco Mundo arc, Aizen expected Ichigo Kurosaki and friends to rescue Orihime Inoue from his castle. He foresaw Soul Society intervening, which led to a plan to trap half of Soul Society’s forces in Hueco Mundo. This gets even better. When Ichigo finally confronts Aizen in the fake Karakura Town, he told Ichigo that he knew about him since the day he was born and that his development throughout the series was all according to his plans. Aizen also predicted that his “loyal subordinate”, Gin Ichimaru, was going to betray him when the time was right. You can say he was basically Tite Kubo in manga/anime form.
So, what is scary about being caught in the spell of hindsight? Three things comes to mind when it comes to how hindsight bias develops over time:
1.) memory distortion (e.g. “I said it was going to happen”, falsifying any previous beliefs or judgments to fit a situation)
2.) inevitability (e.g. “It had to happen”, you knew a possible cause of an event and linked it to that)
3.) foreseeability (e.g. “I knew it would happen”, not shocked when something happens)
In Aizen’s case, he leveled up to the max and was suffering from a huge case of foreseeability. He never really seemed surprised at certain events because of his excessive planning. Look at how pompous our wannabe god acted when discussing his plans directly in front of anyone that had little chance of hurting him.
Perhaps the biggest threat hindsight bias presents is that it hinders your ability to make wise decisions. When Aizen’s expectations of his Espada army fell flat (thanks to the efforts of both the Visoreds and Soul Society), he expresses his disappointment and heavily wounds the last Espada standing, Tia Harribel. Aizen then decides to fight everyone himself. He would reveal that he put the Hogyoku in his body. With the orb resonating inside him, Aizen became even more egomaniacal and began to consider himself a being that was above Shinigami or Hollows until Ichigo took him down hard in Volume 48. Aizen was left shocked at how Ichigo managed to defeat him.
Why did Aizen lose even though he was “perfect”? Simple. Aizen relied too much on the past actions/behaviors of others and used that to enhance his confidence. His beliefs of the past caused him to stagnate mentally since he has no opportunity to learn from his mistakes and no incentive to explore alternative plans. He overestimated the overall strength of the Espada, underestimated the Visoreds (because of his past experiments on them), and greatly underestimated the full potential of Ichigo (being a very unique individual that wasn’t trapped under the illusion of Aizen’s Kyoka Suigetsu does mean something). The first two may not have bothered Aizen that much, but they helped set up the third problem which he heavily ignored because he kept reinforcing his previous view of Ichigo as just a “human” despite his evolution. Being highly intelligent doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily smart.
Having hindsight about certain things can be good. It teaches you to take precautions. But even with the most careful preparation, there’s always the possibility of a crack in the walls you build. The scary part of all this is that people keep having hindsight bias because after all, it’s “safe” to stick to what you’re comfortable with.
Just because you knew something was going to happen doesn’t mean that you fully understand why it happened. You knew that though, right?