L is for Lifetime

| March 2, 2014

In Greg Miller’s article, “Your Elusive Future Self,” Miller points out that many people greatly underestimate how much they will change in the future. The lifetime commitments we make are based on the assumption that we will know who we are going to be in ten years. The results of a series of online experiments found that people believed that they had changed more in the past decade than they would in the future one. People also tend to underestimate changes in their preferences and personal values; this shows that people do not know what they are going to want ten years from now. These results are interesting to note as they show that the common belief held by most people is actually incorrect; this particular projection of the self into the future is wrong. In actuality, people will change more than they have already. However, this projection of self may be attributed instead to our “rational reluctance to predict the unknowable,” claims Shane Frederick, who studies decision-making at Yale University. Frederick advises us to examine others as they “provide some of the best information we can get about the future.”