Mind Reading 101

Knowing what you are going to do before you do. We all do it, read minds, while we may not be able to pick up on the actual thoughts the person is having we can and do predict their behavior with various degrees of success. When we say such and such is going to (insert reaction) when (insert action) happens, we are predicting someone’s behavior, and since behavior originates in the mind…

Take a look at John, John is a hardworking family man with strong moral values, he is moderately religious and a social drinker. Today John has to walk home from work since his car is in the shop. During his walk a man pushes past him as he rushes out of a store, John recognizes him as one of his neighbors. Later that night John is out drinking with his longtime friends and hears on the news that there a string of robberies and a murder has occurred earlier that day.

One of the stores listed is the store the man who shoved John aside emerged from. There is a request for anyone with information to call the police. John informs his friends who thinks that he should call the police, a friend of a friend is one of the store owners who was robbed. Later John informs his wife and asks her opinion on the matter. His wife tells him that she doesn’t think he should call, she’s afraid that the thief will find out that John tipped off the police and come seeking revenge. Understanding his wife’s worry, her father was killed years ago in a robbery gone wrong, John gets ready for bed undecided on what to do. What will John do?

If you guess there’s a 50-50 chance you’ll be right, but with a bit of mind reading it is possible to change that 50-50, to something more in your favor. Setting aside that the limitations of the example, it is still possible to form an accurate prediction about what John will  do.

There are four basic components to the mind reading.

The Components:

Attitude-A person’s attitude toward something, whether they think it’s right or wrong, whether they like or dislike something, and whether they believe in it or not, plays a strong role in predicting how they are going to behave. If for instance I believe that McDonalds fries are better than Wendy’s fries you can safely say that if I ever end up at Wendy’s I’ll be unlikely to order or eat their fries. You can also safely say that buying me McDonalds fries is an easy way to get on my good side.

Approval-Humans are extremely social creatures and much of our behaviors and skill sets revolve around increasing our ability to be social. Even our most popular technologies are based off of our need to socialize, websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress are not incredibly successful because of design ingenuity. A large part of their success is because they allows us to socialize with others at a faster pace than we can if we have to physically visit each other.

Our need to be social has also given rise to our need for approval, why is something as simple as the Facebook like button throughout the entirety of the internet? Because it allows us and others to show their approval for whatever we’ve done. In the world of psychology our need for approval of our actions is known as subjective norms.

Belief-Remember the song “I believe I can fly,” even if you weren’t alive when it first came out chances are you’ve heard the song at least once. There’s something incredibly inspirational about that song that’s allowed it to permeate so many generations of people, and that is belief. If someone believes they can do and succeed at something they are that more likely to engage in that behavior.

Athletic coaches refer to this as heart, having enough heart to score that last touchdown, or run that last yard, or hit that last ball. Creatives refer to this as passion, the business world refers to it as ‘wanting it,’ in the end it all boils down to belief. When someone believes that they are in control of something, even though they may not be, they are much more likely to work harder than normal to succeed.

Thought-The last component to mind is thought. You can’t predict anything without putting some thought into it, even if you aren’t aware of it. Thought is the glue that brings it all together.

Before continuing make your decision about what you think John will do and why you think so, write it down then continue.

 

In order to determine what John will do I first looked at John’s attitude, he has strong moral values which leads me to conclude that he has a strong sense of justice, he is also hardworking which makes me think that he is not a fan of underhanded get rich quick schemes. Combine this with him being moderately religious and I start to think of someone who values “honest to God work,” while this is a stereotype/heuristic it does prove useful in the example. However, that same combination of strong moral values and religion also leads me to believe he has strong ties to his family and takes their thoughts/opinions into consideration when deciding what to do.

Approval-In our example John’s strong social ties are to his family, especially his wife who helped him create their family. As any husband would, he seeks her approval and experiences varying levels of distress when he doesn’t get it. On the other hand John considers his friends to be brothers, some of them he knew before even meeting his wife, he worries how they will react if he follows his wife’s advice and remains silent.

Belief-There is no doubt that John believes he can make the call, it’s as simple as picking up the phone and dialing a number.

In the end my prediction is that John will make the call and inform the police, while he may not do it right away I believe that after sleeping on it, and thinking about it throughout his work day he will decide that the best course of action is to inform the police. His strong sense of morals and belief in ‘honest to God work,’ are contributing factors, as well as the immediate closeness brought to the dilemma by his friend’s indirect involvement. While his loyalty to his wife and need for her approval are strong factors, the disagreement resulting from him going against her wishes at first glance is not strong enough to cause any significant or long-lasting damage to their relationship. On the other hand, should he have sided with his wife, their could be significant conflict among his group of friends, causing a possible division within the group.

There are a number of other factors that can be considered in determining what John chooses to do however, using these four basic components can for the most part successfully predict behavior and bring you one step closer to being a mind reader.

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