Survivorship bias is a mental shortcut or heuristic that occurs when a visible successful individual [or subgroup] is mistaken as being representative of the entire group, due to the fact that all of those who failed to succeed are not visible failure and are thus disregarded.
This bias can lead to false conclusions about what it takes to be successful and an overly optimistic belief in your chances of success.
As we noted in Why Embracing Failure And Uncertainty Is The Better Option:
"Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did it - and we are led to believe that we too can achieve comparable success if we replicate this.
This focus on success is very odd given that:
Success is the exception rather than the rule
Why it happens?
The Survivorship Bias is a very common cognitive bias, which can be attributed to a fundamental misunderstanding of cause and effect, and specifically with regard to the difference between correlation versus causation.
Causation can be defined as action A causes outcome B.
Correlation is a relationship, thus action A relates to outcome B.
With regard to the Survivorship Bias, just because you can observe a pattern from a dataset, such as several successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk dropped out of school, does not mean that all successful entrepreneurs drop out of school, or that all those who drop out of school will be successful.
Excellent and comprehensive article from Shane Parrish of Farnam St: Survivorship Bias: The Tale of Forgotten Failures
Another comprehensive and easy to read article from The Decision Lab: Why do we misjudge groups by only looking at specific group members?
Return from "Survivorship Bias" to: Cognitive Distortion