Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be

I read an article on that discusses the "end of history illusion," the phenomenon we experience when we believe that our future selves will be similar to the way we are now and underestimate how much we will change.

And this phenomenon affects all age groups, from teenagers to retirees. It's easy to look back on our younger selves with embarrassment and amusement, but we never really think that one day we're going to look back on our present selves the same way. The study showed that younger people's predictions for how much their tastes, interests, and personalities would change were very small. However, when interviewing older people, they reported much more radical changes from their younger years to now. This discrepancy continued for all the decades, for participants ranging from age 18 to 68. Thus, people downplay how much they will continue to change, grow, and mature.

Psychologists have multiple theories for why this occurs. One idea is that if we believe we're at the final stage of our personal evolution makes us satisfied, and if we actually considered how transient our interests and tastes are, we might become more anxious and doubtful of our decisions. Another idea suggests that trying to predict the future and how we'll change is too hard to do. And thus, we confuse the difficulty of imagining this change with the unlikelihood that it will happen.

I, myself, have experienced this. Looking back at myself, even just four years ago, when college began, my beliefs and ideas have changed a lot. The group of people I hung out with has changed, different life experiences changed how I thought about things, and overall, I feel like I am more mature, professional, and have a better grasp on how to be an independent and successful adult. And when I look forward, I wouldn't say that I don't believe I will change, I've just never considered it. This article has made me more aware of this fact, and it will probably change how I think about myself in the future.

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