Human Beings Are Driven By Their Personal Predictive Analytics

In yesterday’s NY Times, there’s an excellent article, We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment (written by Martin Seligman and John Tierney). It discusses how human beings process information, and the emergence of a new field called prospective psychology. Here’s a very simplified summary of what it says…

Human beings:

  • Are distinctive from other species in our ability to focus on, value, and plan for the future.
  • Store our memories in three different components: what happened, when it happened, and where it happened.
  • Use our mental “downtime” to run many, many simulations about the future by reconfiguring the elements of our memory in different ways.
  • Tap into the results of simulations to make fast decisions by predicting the likely outcomes of different options.

My take: First of all, we pay attention to whatever Seligman says; he’s the father of the Positive Psychology movement (see the post, Positive Psychology Meets Customer Experience). This view of human psychology describes that the brain as if it is constantly running a very advanced suite of predictive analytics. Here’s why this is meaningful for CX professionals:

  • Humans’ focus on the future is what gives power to Purposeful Leadership, as it creates the motivation for people to be part of achieving something important in the future alongside other people.
  • Since people selectively reconfigure their memories, we need to design experiences to create specific memories. That’s the cornerstone of what we call “Design for Real People,” which is one of the strategies of the CX competency: Customer Connectedness.
  • The myriad of simulations provide people with an expectation that doing something good for someone else will likely lead to a good emotional outcome, which is what creates empathy.
  • To motivate customers, employees, or leaders, it’s helpful to introduce future scenarios that tap into elements of their previous experiences.

And here’s why prospective psychology is important for everyone: it determines your happiness. Like any predictive model, it needs fine tuning. If your model is always calculating the worst-case outcomes, then you’ll tend to be sad and depressed. On the other hand, if your model is looking for positive scenarios, then you’ll stay happy and motivated. We’ll be following the research to see how people can adjust their personal predictive models.

The bottom line: Pay attention to prospective psychology.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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