Why did you choose your college? Why did you lash out at your roommate? Why did you fall in love with that special person? Sometimes we know sometimes we do not know. Ask why we have felt or acted as we have, we produce plausible answers. Yet when causes and determinants are not obvious our self-explanations often err. Factors that have big effects we sometimes report as innocuous, and factors that have little effect we sometimes perceive as influential.
Richard Nisbett and Stanley Schachter (1966) demonstrated this by asking Columbia University students to take a series of electric shocks of steadily increasing intensity. Beforehand, some took a fake pill which they were told would produce heart palpitations, breathing irregularities and butterflies in the stomach-the very symptoms that usually accompany being shocked. Nisbett and Schachter anticipated people would attribute the symptoms of shock to the pill rather than to the shock. Thus they should tolerate more shocks than people not given the shocks. Indeed the effect was enormous-people given the fake pill took four times as much shocks.
Benjamin Franklin has said, “There are three things extremely hard, Steal, a Diamond and to know one’s self”.
We are often poor at predicting our own behavior. On many occasions we say that we are not vulnerable to any outside influences in making our decisions and we shall do what we are now committing / promising to do. But experiments have shown that many of us are vulnerable. The surest thing tat we can say about our individual future is that it is even hard for us to predict. The best advice for you is to look at your past behavior in similar situations.
Our preconceptions strongly influence how we interpret and remember events. People's prejudgments have striking effects upon how they perceive and interpret information. As before-the -judgement bias our perceptions and interpretations, so after-the-fact judgement bias our recall. People whose attitudes have been changed will often deny that they have been influenced. They will insist that how they feel now is how they have always felt.
We have too much faith in our judgments. This 'over confidence' phenomenon stems from the much greater ease with which we can imagine why we might be right than why we might be wrong. Moreover, people are much more likely to search for information that can confirm their beliefs than information that can dis-confirm them. When given compelling anecdotes or even useless information, we often ignore useful base-rate information.