The end-of-history illusion is a psychological illusion in which individuals of all ages believe that they have experienced significant personal growth and changes in tastes up to the present moment, but will not substantially grow or mature in the future. Despite recognizing that their perceptions have evolved, individuals predict that their perceptions will remain roughly the same in the future.
The illusion is based on the fact that at any given developmental stage, an individual can observe a relatively low level of maturity in previous stages. The phenomenon affects teenagers, middle-aged individuals, and seniors. In general, people tend to see significant changes in hindsight, but fail to predict that these changes will continue. For example, a 20-year-old's impression of how great a change they will undergo in the next ten years will not be as extreme as a 30-year-old's recollection of the changes they underwent between the ages of 20 and 30. The same phenomenon is true for people of any age. The reason for the illusion has not been studied, although researchers speculate that a resistance or fear of change may be causal.
Psychologist Daniel Gilbert gave a TED talk about the illusion. Gilbert speculates that the phenomenon may occur because of the difficulty of predicting how one will change or a satisfaction with one's current state of being. Gilbert also relates the phenomenon to the way humans perceive time in general.
The original study that suggested the end-of-history illusion, which was led by Jordi Quoidbach, has been met with criticism for its use of a cross-sectional study rather than a longitudinal study, which would have lent itself better to the long-term nature of the effect. Critics are also skeptical of the reliability of autobiographical memory.
- Pessimistic induction – a similar phenomenon observed in scientific beliefs
- Quoidbach, Jordi; Gilbert, Daniel T.; Wilson, Timothy D. (2013-01-04). "The End of History Illusion" (PDF). Science. 339 (6115): 96–98. doi:10.1126/science.1229294.
Young people, middle-aged people, and older people all believed they had changed a lot in the past but would change relatively little in the future.
- Tierney, John (2013-01-04). "You Won't Stay the Same, Study Finds". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
- Gilbert, Daniel (2014). "The psychology of your future self". TED.com. Retrieved 14 May 2016.
- Gilbert, Daniel (2015-06-19). When Do We Become The Final Version of Ourselves?. Interview with Guy Raz. NPR. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
- Poulsen, Bruce (2013-01-27). "On the End of History Illusion". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
- Burkeman, Oliver (19 January 2013). "This column will change your life: the end-of-history illusion". The Guardian.
- Lebowitz, Shana (10 July 2015). "This fascinating TED talk shows why you have no idea what will make you happy in 10 years". Business Insider.
- The End of History Illusion Replicates (#227)
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