A new research demonstrates that future certainty has significant and potentially deadly consequences

A new research demonstrates that future certainty has significant and potentially deadly consequence ...

New research explores the negative consequences of feeling certain about the future of big social events. The findings, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, suggest that future certainty is linked to poorer information seeking behavior as well as antisocial tendencies.

Irmak Olcaysoy Okten, an incoming assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University, said the previous research in psychology focused on future thinking independently and certainty independently. The topic of certainty about the future and its psychological effects hasn't been systematically studied. It's amisplacedcertainty by definition; people technically cannot know the future with certainty, and they typically recognize that the future is not known.

Nonetheless, they may embrace future certainty in order to dispel anxieties, particularly in times of severe social instability. However, such future certainty may also create tension within the beholder as it is built on a flimsy foundation rather than reality. Therefore, we predicted that future certainty could be accompanied by critical antisocial tendencies, particularly poor information-seeking abilities and enacting violence.

Olcaysoy Okten and her research team found evidence that certainty about the future was linked to various maladaptive outcomes in a series of three studies.

Prolific recruited 296 individuals to perform a survey on general COVID-19 knowledge to assess their agreement or disagreement with statements such as I know that everything will be fine soon and I know that nothing will be better soon.

The second study, which included 298 participants, examined whether future certainty about COVID-19 was associated with subsequent noncompliance with preventive health behaviors about a week later. Participants who were more certain about the future tended to have greater in-person contact with others.

Olcaysoy Okten said that persons with high certainty about the future were less informed about the facts concerning the pandemic in the early days of the epidemic and adhered to preventive measures to a lesser degree. Not the substance of certainty, but the sense of certainty itself was linked to such antisocial tendencies.

Olcaysoy Okten and her colleagues conducted a longitudinal survey of 975 participants regarding the 2020 US presidential election.

Participants indicated who they would vote for, their certainty about the outcome of the election, and their willingness to fight if their preferred candidate was to be voted down. One day after the election, they reported whether or not the election had been rigged, and again indicated their willingness to fight. On January 21, 2021, one day after Joe Biden's inauguration, they reported again whether or not the election had been rigged, and indicated how much they identified with the January 6 insurrectionists who stormed the United

According to the researchers, Donald Trump's supporters were more likely than Biden's supporters to declare that their preferred candidate would win the 2020 election. The likelihood that their candidate would win favored the claim that the election was rigged as well as greater violence endorsement.

Olcaysoy Okten said people who were certain their candidate would win (before the election) ignored reality by claiming that the election was rigged both before the election results were officially released and after their candidate lost. Moreover, those who were certain that Trump would win were more likely to identify with those who stormed the Capitol on January 6.

Importantly, these findings were unaffected by the degree of support for one candidate. Indeed, future certainty emerged as a better predictor of endorsing violence when one candidate lost than the level of support for that candidate.

Together, these findings suggest that certainty about societal events can be linked to disregarding facts about these events, and even putting others in harm's way through antisocial behaviors.

The new findings are in line with previous research that has linked certainty to increased aggression. But Olcaysoy Okten stressed that there is still much to learn about the consequences of being certain about unknown future outcomes.

What are the implications of future certainty for the beholder? Does future certainty reduce the negative effects resulting from uncertainty? Additionally, we need laboratory and longitudinal studies to further investigate the nature of the observed correlations, according to Olcaysoy Okten.

Irmak Olcaysoy Okten, Anton Gollwitzer, and Gabriele Oettingen have written a book on knowledge when knowledge is blinding: The dangers of being certain about the future during difficult social events.

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