The idea we can predict the future makes us feel in control

We’ve all had times where nothing seems to be working out right — like that week when the washing machine floods the kitchen, you sprain your ankle and house guests show up unexpectedly.

You know many tried-and-true methods to get a handle on your circumstances. But there’s one more thing that might help you feel like you’re in control: feeling like you can predict what’s going to happen.

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Belief in precognition increases sense of control over life

Psychologists say they’ve discovered that people given scientific evidence supporting our ability to predict the future feel a greater sense of control over their lives.

“We found that people were drawn to predictability when they experienced loss of control — even to the extent of endorsing seemingly irrational beliefs about precognition,” concluded researchers at University of Queensland, Australia in a study published in 2013 in the open access journal PLOS ONE.

One group of study participants read a paragraph stating that researchers had found evidence supporting the existence of precognition, while another group read a related paper that refuted these findings. Both papers were published in the same issue of a scientific journal.

Loss of control increases belief in predictions

On a subsequent survey, people who read the paper confirming our ability to predict the future agreed more strongly with statements like “I am in control of my own life,” “My life is determined by my own actions,” and “I am able to live my life how I wish,” than the group who read a paper denying the existence of precognition.

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In a second experiment, participants who were made to feel a loss of control, and then asked to read the same pieces reported feeling an increased sense of control after reading about the existence of precognition — but not when they read that it did not exist. People who were made to feel more in control of their lives before reading and answering questions reported no difference in their subsequent sense of control.

Based on these studies, the researchers conclude that psychic predictability can provide the psychological system with a compensatory boost in perceived control.

“Humans are predisposed towards prediction; we like to know what is going to happen in our lives,” explains lead author Katharine Greenaway. “Belief in paranormal abilities like precognition can help people meet this need for predictability by making us feel as though we can control our destiny.”

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