Trust Your Feelings, Predict the Future

Emotional trust could help people better access previously acquired knowledge

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) It has long been a human desire to be able to see into the future. While it may not be possible to become an oracle, having trust in your emotions may help you make better predictions about future events.

Those who trust their feelings scored higher in multiple predictive tests, a new study shows.

From the weather to the presidential race, college football to American Idol, study participants who had high trust in their emotions were more accurate in predicting the outcomes.

"Trust yourself and listen to your emotions."

The study was led by Michel Tuan Pham, MA, PhD, Professor of Business in Marketing at Columbia University.

The researchers call the phenomenon the ‘emotional oracle effect,’ and have conducted eight studies suggesting its existence.

In one study, 146 participants from 46 states completed a task which was meant to induce either a high or low trust in feelings. The participants were then asked to predict the weather in their respective zip codes for the next two days.

Participants who were made to have higher trust in their feelings were 47 percent accurate, while those made to have lower trust were only 28 percent accurate.

Similarly, a study was conducted with the popular T.V. show ‘American Idol.’ In it, 104 participants had their individual existing trust in their feelings measured. Those with an inherent high trust in their feelings correctly predicted the outcome of the show with 41 percent accuracy.

Those with low trust correctly predicted with 24 percent accuracy.

For each of the eight experiments, those who had a higher trust in their feelings had a greater chance of having the correct prediction about future events. This remained true whether the trust was inherent or induced by an exercise.

Additionally, these predictions were limited by the participants background knowledge. For example, in the weather experiment participants were also asked to predict the weather in a far away zip code. Participants with high trust no longer showed an increase in accuracy over those with low trust.

The researchers believe that having a trusting attitude towards emotions allows people to tap into more of their knowledge unknowingly.

"We hypothesize that this intriguing emotional oracle effect arises because trusting one's feelings encourages access to a 'privileged window' into the vast amount of predictive information people learn, almost unconsciously, about their environments over time," add the study authors.

"Relying on feelings allows people to tap into all they tacitly know, compared to relying on logical input which only captures partial perspectives of the events."

The study was published in the March edition of the Journal of Consumer Research and funded by the Center for the Marketing of Financial Services at Columbia University and the INSEAD Alumni Fund. 

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Review Date: 
April 18, 2012
Last Updated:
April 19, 2012