High ability students are thinkers. They frequently think; they consider the future and what lies ahead for them. They may think over and over various possibilities, becoming 'overthinkers'. When thinking students are creative, there is a tendency for them to worry about possibilities they imagine might occur, becoming highly anxious about, and dwelling upon, negative experiences they predict might occur in the future. They might also become 'frozen perfectionists', unable to take effective action to prevent a predicted, undesirable outcome.
In research conducted by Niels Hansen, at Aarhus University, in Denmark, he has described the brain as a 'prediction machine'. Deep thinkers tend to focus on what lies ahead but this capacity to 'predict' the future is frequently influenced by patterns of thought (positive or negative habits), personality factors (flexibility or rigidity) and is open to error (catastrophizing or unrealistic optimism).
It can be beneficial to use prediction as it is the slight anxiety (eustress) generated by anticipation that prompts students to undertake tasks and prepare for commitments: e.g., “I need to get that assignment done because it is due next week" or “I should do some revision for the exam that is scheduled quite soon".
However, too often, individuals become overwhelmed by anxiety, focusing on negative possibilities, believing that they are infallible futurologists (without any thinking errors) who can predict the future with certainty … which they believe will inevitably occur as imagined. This is the point at which probability can be used. By thinking clearly and dispassionately about the likelihood of something occurring and by employing the maths of probability, it is possible for students to engage the rational mind, to consider how likely something might occur, to use a problem-solving approach to deal with the issue and thus effectively predict a desirable future.
Prediction is useful if it galvanizes us to take positive action to manage a concern and create a better outcome, but when thinking errors occur, prediction goes awry and the level of worry or anxiety far exceeds the probability of a crisis occurring, as predicted by faulty thinking.
A prediction or statement based upon experience can galvanise individuals to take action, but where the level of anxiety is disproportionate to the perceived risk, faulty predictions do not serve us well. Instead, faulty prediction that is not based upon rational thought or the calculation of probability can easily overwhelm sensitive 'overthinkers' with excessive levels of anxiety, rendering them unable to tackle the problem by thinking or by taking action. The latter occurs because of thinking, so if thinking is faulty, the prediction is that action will be faulty and ineffective, as well.
© Michele Juratowitch