No Fate! Or Maybe Fate. What’s Your Choice?

The Huffington Post:

High on my list of guilty pleasures are the Terminator movies, especially T2, which I just watched again the other day. In a crucial scene in this futuristic thriller, hero Sarah Connor is close to despair in a Mexican desert camp, beaten down by the daunting responsibility of saving the world. Sitting alone at a picnic table, she dozes off and dreams of the nuclear devastation that has been foretold and of all the people who will perish. When she wakes with a start, she grabs her Bowie knife and begins carving into the table. She then jumps into action, as the camera lingers on the words she has scratched out: “No fate.”

This epiphany transforms Sarah. She realizes that her apocalyptic vision is only one possible future and that she has the power to alter events. She rejects fatalism, and everything else — presumably including humanity’s salvation — unfolds from this fundamental shift in belief.

But where does fatalism come from? Some may be fatalistic for religious reasons, but for many of us, our sense of agency and control changes from situation to situation, depending on what choices and decisions we’re faced with. At least that’s the theory of Aaron Kay, professor in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and in the department of Psychology and Neuroscience, who has been studying the link between decision making and fatalistic beliefs. Kay, with colleagues Simone Tang and Steven Shepherd, suspected that very difficult choices — dilemmas with no clear solution — shift us into a more fatalistic state of mind. That is, rather than make a decision in the face of paralyzing uncertainty, we defer to some other invisible hand to control the outcome.

Read the whole story: The Huffington Post

Wray Herbert is an author and award-winning journalist who writes two popular blogs for APS, We’re Only Human and Full Frontal Psychology. Follow Wray on Twitter @wrayherbert.

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