I’m a science junkie. I admit it and while when I was a teenager I might have downplayed that side of me, now it’s something I wear quite openly on my sleeve. This couldn’t have been displayed more openly when at the post-USA’s Run Gum party, I was sitting at a table with coach Daniel Goetz, Phoebe Wright, Angela Bizzari and the Brooks crew talking about a study. Yes, I was at a post-race party, detailing a psychology study. If that doesn’t sum up me up, I’m not sure what will.
In a particular set of studies, they looked at how accurate people were at predicting their own behavior versus a stranger predicting their behavior. In one study, they had college students predict how nervous they’d be when talking with new people. The individuals were worse at predicting than people who had just met them. Another study looked at how well people could predict their future behaviors, in this case in purchasing flowers for a charity drive. 83% of the individuals predicted that they would buy flowers, while strangers predicted that 56% of the people would buy flowers. The actual percentage of people who bought flowers for the charity was 43%. So the strangers predicted behavior outcomes to a much larger degree. The same effect can be seen on giving donations and a lot of other behavioral outcomes.
The point is we suck at predicting our own behavior. As Timothy Wilson writes in his book, Strangers to Ourselves: