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Past and Future – Bobby Goes to High School

October 17, 2021

What is the relationship between past history and future performance?

Bobby goes to high school and his grades aren’t that great. Mostly C’s, some D’s. It’s been like this for the past year. He just doesn’t find it interesting.

If you had to put money down on whether Bobby will get an A next semester, would you make that bet? Why?

What if I told you that in the past year, he’s been dealing with the death of his father? And previously, his grades were actually really good. He’s just going through a difficult time. Would your answer change?

What if I told you that he started doing drugs, joined a bad group of people, started staying out late. Would your answer change?

What if I told you that he said he would resolve to do better, that he had an action plan, that he was really motivated to do better. Would your answer change?

What if I told you that he has ADHD and was recently diagnosed, that he will be seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist regularly, that he will have a school-defined action plan to help improve his grades. Would your answer change?

No matter what the scenario, it seems that the past history of poor grades weighs down on Bobby in your assessment of whether he will be able to get an A in the next semester. What if you were allowed more leeway to say next year, or within High School? Would your answer change? Would you be “willing to make the bet?”

There’s a relationship of past history to our projection of future performance. What’s interesting is that past history isn’t really a great indicator of future performance. However, it’s, more often than not, the only thing we have.

However, this goes beyond just High School. The relationship between past history and future performance is riddled throughout our life from our employer’s reviews to employee assessments, to investment analysis, to child development, and beyond.

What is the correct relationship of past history to future performance? How can Psychiatry help prevent us from falling into harmful biases? How can Religion provide clarity?

Let’s discuss next week.

Dr. Eric

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