You're Lousy at Imagining Your Future Self: Study

People underestimate how much they'll change

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 4, 2013 9:00 AM CST

(Newser) – Thinking of getting married? Buying a house? Picking a college major? Or making any decision that will affect you a decade later? Well don't be surprised if it doesn't turn out the way you expect, because humans are lousy at predicting how much they'll change over time, a new study suggests. Psychologists gave 19,000 people a questionnaire, then asked them to take it again; either as they would have responded 10 years earlier and/or as they imagine they'd respond 10 years later.

In most cases, across all age groups, participants predicted that they would change less in the future than they reported changing in the past, Science reports. To give a more concrete example: 58-year-olds reported sizable changes since age 48, but anticipated few changes at 68; but the 68-year-old group recorded having indeed changed compared to a decade earlier. The authors took this as evidence of the "end of history illusion," the idea that people believe that the present is their ultimate evolution. But not everyone is convinced by their research. One Yale psychologist points out that people "might well anticipate substantial change, yet not know how they would change, and thus, just predict the status quo."

We're not very good at seeing the future
We're not very good at seeing the future   (Shutterstock)
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