Survivorship bias is where the data you are looking for is biased based on the fact that those who died (sometimes figuratively) can't provide data points. For example "Raising kids isn't that hard. My parents did it." I'm looking for the thing that happens in the other direction, where you assume you will survive (or sometimes just succeed) because whatever you do won't matter if you die (or fail). The most common place I see this is in the phrase "We will, because we have to." It's something someone might say to indicate that they have stopped considering the possibility of failure because it is not helpful to consider it. This thing that I don't have a name for is also the justification for lying to kids in an emergency by telling them that everything is going to be OK even though you are unsure. If you all die it won't matter that you lied to the kid, so you plan assuming you will survive.

Apologies for not being able to explain that better, but that really is the core of my problem.

  • It's not quite Pascal's Wager, but I've a sense of what you mean. I'll bet there's a word in German we could appropriate. Mar 20, 2020 at 4:27
  • It sounds like philosophy, or probability theory.
    – Ram Pillai
    Mar 20, 2020 at 7:24

1 Answer 1


This has been called the weak sure-thing principle. It is not a bias, except when your actions and the truly bad thing happening are not independent.

See https://repub.eur.nl/pub/23209/DMwithBeliefFunctions_1993.pdf, p. 266:

The weak sure-thing principle is satisfied if, for any two acts that have common outcomes outside an unambiguous event AS, the preference does not depend on the level of those common outcomes.

To 'translate' this to your case of lying to the kids:

The weak sure-thing principle is satisfied if, when lying and not lying have the same outcome if everybody dies, the choice to lie or not to lie does not depend on the outcome where everybody dies.

Related: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sure-thing_principle

  • 1
    You've given me exactly what I asked for. Unfortunately I don't expect this is going to be any faster to explain to someone. It is more precise though.
    – 9072997
    Mar 20, 2020 at 18:06

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