People make predictions all the time and about everything—from who will win the match, what will happen in the daily soap to the stock market and the weather. We just love making predictions. And while not everyone gets it right, many people actually do predict accurately. According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people are able to better predict future events when they trust their feelings. Of course, one needs to know a little about what you’re predicting.
Over the course of eight studies, study authors Michel Tuan Pham, Leonard Lee [both from Columbia University] and Andrew T. Stephen [from the University of Pittsburgh] found that individuals who trusted their feelings about their knowledge were better able to predict the outcomes of various future events than people who had less trust in their feelings.
The authors call this phenomenon, “emotional oracle effect” and it was proven across a broad range of predictions, including the outcome of the 2008 U.S. Democratic presidential nomination, movie success at the box office, the winner of American Idol, movements of the stock market, the outcome of a national college football championship, and the weather.
For example, in one study, 175 online participants from 46 U.S. states completed a task that induced high or low trust in their feelings. Then they were asked to predict the weather in their respective zip codes for the next two days. “A comparison between predicted and actual weather conditions revealed that 54 percent of the participants with a high trust in feelings made the correct prediction, more than twice the proportion of participants with a low trust in feelings who predicted correctly [21 per cent].”
However, it was limited by background knowledge. When people in the weather study were asked to predict the weather in far-away locales or two weeks later instead of two days, their predictions lost their advantage.
“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,” the authors conclude. “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.”