Predicting Our Behaviour

Other people are far superior than us at predicting our behaviour as their predictions are based primarily on observation and are not tainted by our psychological narrative.

After reading Timothy Wilson’s Strangers to Ourselves, Nick Southgate–faculty member at London’s The School of Life–discusses this idea that our friends and acquaintances are better than us at predicting our future behaviour .

We like to think of our introspected motivations as predictive facts that will tell us what we will do. However […] our inner reflections discover not facts but a story we tell to ourselves about ourselves. These stories tend to be rose-tinted. We see ourselves as more consistent, admirable and steadfast than we turn out to be. We forget contrary behaviour and previous weakness and focus on being better.

In contrast, other people can only base their predictions on behaviour they have observed. This gives them a factual edge. They know you are always late, don’t stick to diets, drive too fast and tend to forget birthdays. Their judgement is not clouded by resolutions to reform oneself and the self-preserving instinct to not dwell on past misdemeanours.

Consequently, if we want to know what you will do next, it is often better to ask others than it is to ask yourself. Friends and family can know you better than you know yourself. Even strangers, who can see a situation more clearly than you, can make better predictions.

via The Browser