Expect the expected

During my trip overseas I spent some time reading an interesting book called “The Head Trip.” It’s another book in the string of neuroscience/consciousness books I’ve been perusing. The author, Jeff Warren, spends a lot of time discussing the role of expectation in our interactions with ourselves and our environment. When the more interesting observations related to this is the success of placebo medical treatments. As is probably obvious, these are situations where doctors give people suffering from some particular malady a harmless pill and say, “you should start to feel better in X weeks.” A surprising number of people, greater than chance, do improve. And the reverse is also too. (To some degree, stories of people affected by the voodoo curses can probably be explained by their expectation that the voodoo curse was going to take its effect on them.)

Expectation can operate on other levels. While writing the book, Warren tried hypnosis and similar consciousness altering experiences. He found when the hypnotist seemed unsure of their abilities and incapable of inspiring confidence, he would not enter the hypnotic state. But when hypnotized by a seeming “professional” he more easily fell into a trance. His expectations of the process seemed to affect the outcome.

This makes me recall an experience I had years ago. I walked into a bar (surprise!) and started up a conversation with some people playing shuffleboard. They invited me to play a few games and I totally ruled! I was making shots that were blowing people away. However, I’ve played the game since then, and never achieved what I did in that first game. This is the kind of thing people often refer to as beginners luck.

So what role does expectation play in this? When I played that first game of shuffleboard, I had no sense of what I was capable of. I simply did my best and played the game. But, as years went on, I watched other people play, and analyzed what they did, and the world of shuffleboard became more familiar to me. As a result, I developed expectations about what was possible and what wasn’t.

Alternately, this leads us to consider the possibility that we’re capable of far more than we think, and it’s the expectations placed on us by ourselves and others that limit us. Ultimately, I think anything is possible… with love.

4 Responses to “Expect the expected”


  1. John Saleeby

    I told Jimmy Page about Scratching Music and he thinks it’s A GREAT IDEA! So then we told Robert Plant about it and he’s so excited that next week we’re going into the Studio with John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl so make Scratching Music A HAPPENING THING! And you just ignored my great idea! Ha! FUCK YOU!

    SCRATCHING MUSIC!!!!

  2. Wil

    I expected that.

  3. John Saleeby

    Oh, yeah, Ha Ha!

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