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Retrodiction (or postdiction, though this should not be confused with the use of the term in criticisms of parapsychological research) is the act of making a "prediction" about the past.

Scientific method[edit]

In scientific method, the terms retrodiction or postdiction are used in several senses.

One use refers to the act of evaluating a scientific theory by predicting known rather than new events. For example, a theory in physics that claims to extend or replace the standard model but that fails to predict the existence of known particles has not met the test of postdiction.

Michael Clive Price has written:

A retrodiction occurs when already gathered data is accounted for by a later theoretical advance in a more convincing fashion. The advantage of a retrodiction over a prediction is that the already gathered data is more likely to be free of experimenter bias. An example of a retrodiction is the perihelion shift of Mercury which Newtonian mechanics plus gravity was unable, totally, to account for whilst Einstein's general relativity made short work of it.[1]

Another use refers to a process by which one attempts to test a theory whose predictions are too long-term to be tested by waiting for a future event to occur. Instead, one speculates about uncertain events in the more distant past, and applies the theory to consider how it would have predicted a known event in the less distant past. This is useful in, for example, the fields of archaeology, climatology, evolutionary biology, financial analysis, forensic science, and cosmology.

Sensory perception[edit]

In the field of neuroscience, the term postdiction was introduced by David Eagleman to describe a perceptual process in which the brain collects information after an event before it retrospectively decides what happened at the time of the event (Eagleman and Sejnowski, 2000[2]). Some perceptual illusions in which the brain mistakenly perceives the location of moving stimuli may involve postdiction. Such illusions include the flash lag illusion[2] and the cutaneous rabbit illusion.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Everett Interpretation
  2. ^ a b Eagleman DM, Sejnowski, TJ (2000). "Motion integration and postdiction in visual awareness". Science. 287 (5460): 2036–8. doi:10.1126/science.287.5460.2036. PMID 10720334. 
  3. ^ Goldreich, D; Tong, J (10 May 2013). "Prediction, Postdiction, and Perceptual Length Contraction: A Bayesian Low-Speed Prior Captures the Cutaneous Rabbit and Related Illusions". Frontiers in Psychology. 4. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00221.