Would you believe that your expectation can enhance the performance of a mouse in a maze problem? I wouldn’t be writing this post if the answer isn’t, indeed, yes. That is how Invisibilia started its show on how society expectation on a blind person, is hindering his ability to “see” the world.
For those who are short on time, let me expand on the idea that expectations can shape behaviours. Going back to the case of mouse, it is related to an idea that a thought manifests physically. In the other words, it is a physical thing. When we believe that our mouse is good, we tend to change the way we treat it, gentler, with more caring and love. That subtle change in treatment has a positive effect on that mouse which is reflected in higher performance.
One may ask whether this has an effect on human too. Yes, it does. Take a blind person. Daniel Kish has demonstrated that a blind person can comfortably navigate in this world without assistant. Listen to his story of growing up, one thing is immediate: expectation, well-intended or not, can have unintended consequences. When we see a blind person, our first response (I hope) is to help that person, but in doing so, it reinforces in the blind person’s mind that he doesn’t need to help himself as there will always be people to assist him with daily life. So, in effect, he is less likely to develop self-reliance, further reinforcing the common perception of a blind person.
Interestingly, our expectation has influenced on the nature of luck itself, which is the theme in this article. One area that we may study luck is in sport, in particular, winning streaks, where a player seems to be on a roll. In basketball, this is often referred as “hot hands”. In 1985, it was concluded by three psychologists that the hot-hands effect did not exist, but rather a result of our cognitive bias to see pattern where there isn’t one.
A recent study, however, disputes this result by reasoning that a player with hot hands tends to play more difficult shots and thus cancelling out the hot-hands effect. This is further supported by another study on the winning streaks in baseball which observed that a player on a winning streak is more likely to make the next home run.
If luck isn’t so random, what influences our luck? Looking gamblers’ behaviour yield an insight on the nature of luck itself. It turns out that those on a winning streaks are more likely to keep on winning, mostly because they expect that their luck cannot last forever, and therefore start making safer bets. On the other hand, those on a losing streak expect that the lady luck should visit them soon, and thus fail for Gambler’s Fallacy by risking larger bets. This is, behaviour can nudge luck.
If behaviour influences luck and expectation can subtly influence behaviour, it is not hard to see how expectations can influence luck itself. Indeed, people with positive expectations tend to create self-fulfilling prophesies and develop more resilient attitude.
Extending this idea further by suggesting that society expectations on individuals have more profound influence on the economy of that culture than the system (political or economical) it chooses to operate in. This idea is not entirely outrageous. An economy is an aggregate of all individual transactions and decisions, and if society expectation exerts influence on these individuals, it isn’t hard to see why this shouldn’t affect the economy as a whole. A major contributor to Japan problem on the low woman participation in workforce is its expectation on women; through innocent at individual level, it has a large effect at the national level. And that is exactly what Shinzo Abe is trying to address.
This raises an interesting question: what other expectations influence our behaviours and economy?