The illusion of control gives us security

The illusion of control gives us security

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The future tortures us and the past chains us. That is why we miss the present.

Our brain is a machine to anticipate. Throughout the evolutionary process, man has gradually increased his ability to predict, using analogies with the accumulated knowledge of previous experiences, both his own and ancestors'. According to writer and philosopher José Antonio Marina, there is no species more fearful than the human. It is the tribute that we have to pay for our privileged intelligence.


  • 1 We cannot control the future
  • 2 In search of our dreams
  • 3 The usefulness of anticipating

We can't control the future

The illusion of control is the tendency of human beings to believe that they can control, or at least influence, the results in those who clearly have no influence, such as random events.

Years ago, psychologists Jenkins & Ward (1965) conducted an experiment related to this fact. Two lights were installed on a marker, which could be turned on and off independently. The people in the experiment should try to control which of the two lights would come on at each moment. They were presented with two buttons to press and they had to decide on each turn to press or not to press, depending on whether they thought it was going to turn on or not. The connections were arranged so that each action turned on a light with a given probability, so people had no control over them. The subjects were told that there might be no relationship between their actions and the lights. People were subsequently asked to estimate how much control they thought they had over the lights. Even when there was no difference in what they chose, people reported with certainty that they exercised some control over the lights.

From somehow we all try to make sense of life by building a coherent story based on cause and effect relationships. We tell ourselves, and we tell others, that something happened because we did this or that; but unfortunately the link between cause and effect is usually more tenuous than we like to think and each event can have countless causes.

A deep-rooted belief is what drives us to think that if we behave well, if we eat the right foods and in moderation, if we exercise regularly, etc., we will be rewarded with a long and healthy life. However, it is not necessarily so. We constantly make plans that never go as planned. As an old saying goes "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans." They need to put us in perspective.

In search of our dreams

Since childhood they have educated us and prepared to set goals, I stop working on actions that lead to those goals, however, how many times do we fail to achieve our goals? How many times are we trying to control a future that we cannot predict? How many things do not go as we thought they would go?

So, if we don't know the future, much less can we control it. We like to think we do it, but it's not true. And yet we continue to believe in the illusion of control. We face a chaotic and complex world and try to control it in every way possible.

But we do not control as much as we would like, neither from the outside world nor from our internal jurisdiction. And yet, we live as if everything depended on us ... Thus, we tend to feel guilty when things do not go well, to disappoint when our expectations are not met, to break our heads inquiring about things, when all this is hides in the inscrutable designs of chance. Indeed, we know many things, but we have an innate tendency to think that we know a little more than we really know, if we were more humble regarding our ability to control, we would suffer less.

The usefulness of anticipating

On the one hand, this power to be predictors constitutes an invaluable aid for survival, since it allows avoiding danger even before it manifests itself. It is also a resource to learn, as well as to plan projects and create ways to achieve future goals. But this ability also causes some of our most obvious failures.

For some, precisely the ability to anticipate is what catches many in vicious circles of concern. By living between memory and imagination, between the ghosts of the past and the future, old dangers are rekindled or new threats are invented. It is easy then to confuse fantasy with reality and suffer terribly from the uncertainty of what may happen.

It may interest you: The Forer Effect


  1. Cambeul

    Just that is necessary. Together we can come to a right answer. I am assured.

  2. Worton

    I am sure it is the lie.

  3. Dichali

    I apologize, but I think you are wrong. Enter we'll discuss.

  4. Dagrel

    it can close a space ...

  5. Scaffeld

    I completely agree with you.

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