Predicting behavior from actions in the past

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

predicting behavior from actions in the past

Is it possible to predict human behavior from the actions they took in the past?
The ability to Predict behavior sounds like a super power that cannot be attained however the good news is that psychology made it quite possible!!

Human beings are too complex to understand but because they develop certain goals as a result of their past experiences then try to achieve them throughout their lives predicting their behavior becomes an easy task once you understand these goals.

In this article i will tell you how you can use someone past actions to predict his behavior.

How past actions can help in behavior prediction

Brad and Justin are brothers, Because Brad was the second one to be born the family's attention suddenly shifted to him and this made him feel that he is the center of the world.

When they grew up Justin always believed that someone is going to be favored over him while Brad always tried to be in the center of attention to maintain his status.

Knowing this little fact about their past made predicting their future actions possible.
If both went to school together we can easily guess that Brad will do every possible action to be in the center of attention in school. If he was brave he would do that constructively by trying to be the first or to answer the teacher's questions while if he wasn't brave he might turn into a problem child or even a bully.

I am not saying that predicting human behavior is 1+1=2 science but what i am trying to say is that the more information you have about someone's past the easier it will be to predict his behavior and future actions.

If i was interested in predicting consumer behavior because i had a car store for example and then i knew this fact about Brad i would predict that he will aim for an expensive sports car. Justin on the other hand would be interested in a practical and reliable car.

Of course knowing a new fact about these guys or knowing about a past action that they took might let me alter the predictions i made for their future behavior a bit, that's why collecting enough information about someone is crucial if you want to correctly predict his future actions.

More examples on behavior prediction using past actions

The moment i see someone driving a sports car i conclude that he is a showy person who needs attention. Now if i knew that this person doesn't think that he is attractive (because of certain action he took in the past) i can easily predict that he will want to marry a very beautiful women in order to both show off and compensate for his perceived lack of attractiveness.

Past actions can even help you predict criminal behavior. A criminal commits a crime because he wants to fulfill a certain psychological goal, like for example feeling superior to others as a result of feeling inferior. ( See Why do people commit crimes)

Once you understand the psychological drives behind the criminal's actions you will easily be able to predict whether he will stop committing crimes or whether he will re-offend few months later.

quick summary for predicting human behavior

  • Their past experiences is as important as their past actions: Knowing every possible thing about the person's past will make it much easier to predict his behavior and future actions
  • Past actions reveal intentions: Past actions reveal the psychological goals the person is trying to reach which is the key to understanding his personality and predicting his future behavior
  • Problem facing style and behavior prediction: Back to Justin's example, if the guy got used to escape from problems then we can easily predict that he will grow up to become a shy adult. Justin always thinks that someone's is going to favored over him as a result of his past experiences and because he likes to escape he will avoid that situations all together by becoming socially isolated

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