Those Who Think Further into the Future Less Likely to Take Risks

The folks that think further in the future may be more likely to avoid risks, accord to a brand new study. Scientists have referred to some very big data sources in order to analyze the texts from almost 40,000 people on Twitter. And they also ran online experiments to assess their overall behavior.

These researchers also discovered a correlation between those who have longer future-sightedness and those who less apt to make risky decisions, according to the study.

“Twitter is like a microscope for psychologists,” said Phillip Wolff, who is an associate professor of psychology from Emory University and also one of the coauthors for a report that recently appeared in the publication, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Naturalistic data mined from tweets appears to give insights not just into tweeters’ thoughts at a particular time, but into a relatively stable cognitive process. Using social media and big-data analytical tools opens up a new paradigm in the way we study human behavior.”

Revealing ourselves on social media

see the futureThe other coauthor Robert Thorstad, who is also a PhD candidate from Wolff’s lab, created the idea for this research, and he also created its design and analyses, and even implemented the experiments.

“I’m fascinated by how people’s everyday behavior can give away a lot of information about their psychology,” Thorstad claimed. “Much of our work was automated, so we were able to analyze millions of tweets from thousands of individuals’ day-to-day lives.”

Those who view further into the future tends to have fewer and shorter tweets, usually just a few after only a couple of days, which is far different than previous research which indicated future-sightedness on the order of years.

“One possible interpretation is that the difference is due to a feature of social media,” Wolff says. Another potential reason was that previous studies explicitly asked folks exactly how far they were thinking into the future while this research used implicit measures for previous tweets.

While this interesting relationship between decision-making and future-sightedness may appear obvious, prior findings on this subject haven’t been that consistent. Those inconsistencies could be because of factors like observer bias in laboratory settings or small sample sizes.

These researchers employed an array of methods (like the Stanford CoreNLP which is a natural language processing system and also SUTime, which is a rule-based temporal tagger that is built on regular expression patterns) to automatically assess Twitter text trails that were left by individual topics.

They collected this experimental data through the use of Amazon’s crowdsourcing tool called Mechanical Turk, which is actually a website where people can perform a variety of internet-based tasks. Scientists asked the participants in these Mechanical Turk experiments to furnish their Twitter screen names.

In one particular experiment, the Mechanical Turk participants were required to answer delay discounting questions, like: Would you rather have $60 today or $100 six months from now? The researchers then analyzed the tweets of these participants. They assessed future orientation by their tendency to tweet about topics related to the future as compared to the past. Their future-sightedness was based on how frequently their tweets talked about the future, and how far they looked in the future.

The data indicated that future orientation was not related to investment behavior, but those people who looked further into the future were most likely to opt for waiting for bigger rewards in the future than those who didn’t look as far in the future. This revealed the link between investment behavior and how far people look into the future.