In the aftermath of an exciting Super Bowl, let's consider a lesson we all can learn from the hoopla surrounding Peyton Manning in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. During the entire two weeks leading up to the big game, we heard expert after expert pronounce Peyton Manning as the greatest QB to ever live, or perhaps right on par with the great Joe Montana. Everyone presumed that he would win the Super Bowl. Was all that hype really justified? (As a Patriots and Tom Brady fan, I was perplexed, to say the least!)
Overall, going into last night's game, Peyton Manning had 9 wins and 8 losses in his playoff career. Until his only Super Bowl win in 2006, he had a reputation for performing poorly in the postseason. That championship season changed perceptions. Yet, he lost both of his playoff games in the two seasons after that championship. This year, though, he led his team to the Super Bowl once again. People seemed to forget his postseason struggles, his inability to play his best on the big stage. Even in 2006, when his team won 4 games and lost none in the playoffs, he had only 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions during the postseason... not exactly stellar. No one seemed to remember these facts.
Last week, no one also seemed to remember that Joe Montana won 4 Super Bowls and didn't lose any, while throwing 11 touchdowns with ZERO interceptions in those games. Overall, he won 16 games and lost only 7 in the playoffs. Yet, people proclaimed Manning the greatest ever last week.
What happened to all the experts, who surely don't forget Joe Montana's greatness or Manning's playoff struggles of the past? The lesson is that humans are incredibly vulnerable to what psychologists call the recency effect. We have a strong tendency to place too much emphasis on information and evidence that is readily available, such as recent events. We are incredibly myopic. The Manning hype provides a powerful example of the recency effect in action.