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100 Qs for Life: Are our current projections unreasonable?

August 29, 2011

This is Question 33 from the “100 Questions for Life” series.

Are our current projections unreasonable?

I’ve always believed a large number of life’s disputes, arguments and the occasional war, can be attributed to poor expectation setting. How many household arguments are purely the result of one party having a different expectation to the other? For example, one spouse is coming home after a long day at work, while the other is preparing dinner for 6:00pm. When the commuter arrives home at 6:30pm, the cook is rightly miffed and will usually ask “But why didn’t you call?”

While this compelling melodrama plays out daily in a household near you, the solutions which include:

a)     Telling your partner you’ll be late the day before
b)     Allowing your partner to use GPS tracking to monitor your activity
c)     Calling your partner with a timely (five minutes ain’t enough) warning
d)     Time travel

are all played out on a daily basis as well (except maybe the time travel one).

If expectation setting is a useful tool in life, understanding the limits of our own projections may be too. Projections occur when we attribute particular motivations, attributes, beliefs or intentions to individuals without consulting them. Examples of this amusing practice include:

1.     Political commentators suggesting a professed Christian is a closet Muslim (1)
2.     Journalists implying an attempt at humor has deeper meaning (2)
3.     Drivers attributing malicious intent to other drivers who are too distracted to know they even exist
4.     People expecting celebrities to have a better idea of how to live their lives than anyone else
5.     Believing religious leaders are perfect and/or infallible

As a good friend of stereotypes, projections can assist us in understanding the world around us and lead us to correct conclusions when we project accurately. However, when we begin allowing our own biases and generalizations to get in the way of properly collecting and assessing the facts, we may be implicitly creating inaccurate projections.

While I’m completely open to considering President Obama has spent a large portion of his life reading the Bible, going to church and professing a Christian faith with the sole intent of secretly becoming the first Muslim president, there are probably more likely reasons for these actions. Similarly, as I tear out my hair or shout various insults at the driver who cuts me off, it might be worth reminding myself that I’ve probably done the same to someone else, blissfully unaware (this should not be confused with drivers who speed up to stop you getting in their lane – they deserve all the projections they get). 🙂


It appears we may have reached a point where the volume of information we receive each day is so overwhelming our brains have decided to throw in the towel and just make stuff up, or give in completely to our biases. If you find yourself dismissing a particular politician as a moron, attributing super powers to your favorite celebrity or accepting spiritual or life guidance without question, it might be time to reassess your future and current projections (although, I also accept it is possible you’re right).


One Comment leave one →
  1. sberoza permalink
    August 30, 2011 8:41 pm

    I always love your anecdotes!

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