Predictable Identities: 18 – Self-consistency

We like and reward people who are consistent, categorizable, and cooperative because it’s easier to predict them. And since prediction shapes action shapes reality, we make other people be so. This was the first half of this blogchain; the second will cover how we do this to ourselves.

Let’s start with consistency. Students who did well on an exam said that they weren’t anxious before it, those who did poorly said that they were. Pre-exam questionnaires, however, show that these memories are false. We tell ourselves (and our friends) how we immediately fell in love with our partner, even if in reality the first couple of dates were awkward and skeptical. We tell anecdotes about things we did as kids that predict our current vocation, even though at age 6 we were mostly obsessed with spiders and the Power Rangers. We also predict that our attitudes will persist into the future to a much greater extent than they actually do.

Self-consistency bias affects not only our memories, but also the decisions we make. In fact, we couldn’t make decisions at all without assuming some consistency in our preferences and abilities. And by convincing ourselves of our consistency, we reassure others as well. 

I’m writing this post because I predict that, at least for several more months, I will be as obsessed with identity and predictive processing as I am right now. You’re reading this blogchain partly for the same reason  — you predict that new posts will keep coming every other(ish) Wednesday and will stay on topic. If I actually analyzed the half-life of my fascinations with esoteric topics, I may discover some discouraging patterns. It’s better for all of us that I don’t. 

I have always been writing Predictable Identities

I will always be writing Predictable Identities.

Isn’t that reassuring?

Series Navigation<< Predictable Identities: 17 – Midpoint ReviewPredictable Identities: 19 – Labels >>

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About Jacob Falkovich

Jacob is so proud of his blog, putanumonit.com, that it's on his online dating profiles. He also tweets @yashkaf.

Comments

  1. Double plus good, Comrade! This very blogchain is the eternal Ribbon binding together our Glorious Community and I am literally always reading it quack quack derp derp :)

    • Indeed, this blogchain is as eternally existing and consistent as the People’s Republic of China.

      (Seriously, I wonder if totalitarian regimes are onto something with their eternalism)

  2. I realise external pressure on me to be predictable. I put same pressure on others. Kind of sad.

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