Precognition and confirmation bias in the daydreamer

Preamble

I was reading in Astrology for the Soul about the astrological classification of my north node a few weeks back (for those interested I’m a Virgo). The author (Jan Spiller) had a lot of interesting stuff to say about my proclivity for daydreaming.

It may seem odd, but I never realised just how much time I spend in my head. Within half a second of meeting, say, a cute girl, I can have built a crystal castle of thought beautiful enough to rival the works of the big guy upstairs himself. (NB: I use the term ‘big guy upstairs’ with my tongue firmly in cheek – the last thing I want to do is align myself with any particularly mainstream religious persuasion here.) The issue, you see, with crystal castles of thought and mindstuff are that they paralyse me into inaction – either by not needing to act because I’m happy in my fantasy, or because it’s so beautiful I lose the moment wondering how I can get to the projected future.

Obviously this is less than ideal. The simple answer is to remain present (though that incites the hard task of actually managing to stay present). Spiller suggests focusing on the superficial but practical aspects of the moment to bring one back to earth – the colour of the clothes people are wearing, the sounds nearby. The tang in the air (if, indeed, there is a tang in the air).

Confirmation Bias

If you haven’t heard of confirmation bias, it’s the tendency to filter your experience such that you only “see” those things which confirm your existing beliefs. In a nutshell, if you think all VW Polos contain pretty girls (as I do) you’ll only see pretty girls in VW Polos simply because you make a conscious note of any pretty girls you see in VW Polos and dismiss everyone else who you happen to see in such a vehicular configuration.

Confirmation bias in imaginative individuals => precognition

Thinking about this fantasizing, and my firmly held belief that I have, with fair regularity, predicted the future with uncanny accuracy (see also overconfidence effect) I come to the conclusion that, possibly, a vivid imagination which can play out myriad possible outcomes could lead to a form of precognition when coupled with confirmation bias. I am faced with a situation, immediately start daydreaming about all the possible ways it might play out, then when one of them happens I feel validated and forget all the others which had come to mind.

There’s probably a cognitive bias for that, too.

Someone was calling on the telephone. Universes of thought passed through my mind between the first and second rings. I answered on the third.

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