Anticipation: The only real time machine!

We are all time travelers. Each day, we make thousands of short trips into the future. Not physically as with the DeLorean from back to the future, but within our minds in a time machine called anticipation. But how does this anticipation time traveling machine really help us in our daily life activities?

What is anticipation?
Anticipation is the process of imaginative speculation about the future that is based on information arising in your field of attention (read more about attention). When we cross a busy road, we anticipate the future movements and actions of everybody around us. We base our own movements on this short time traveling process. Anticipation comes in many different shapes. The simplest distinction is between explicit and implicit anticipation. Explicit anticipations are those of which you are aware and conscious about. They may be used as synonyms for predictions or expectations. For example, explicit anticipation is used when you plan ahead on a project or at the beginning of your day. Implicit anticipations, by contrast, work below the threshold of consciousness and are active within the brain without you being aware of them like crossing the road. You often are not aware of all the things you take into consideration before making the first step to the other side, Without being conscious about it, in your head you continuously make an future image of the situation around you taking things into consideration like the speed of cars, traffic lights and your own speed in space and time! Your implicit anticipation skills prepare you for all possible future events even the ones that you don’t expect.

Keep the stress up!
Our anticipation skills are important building blocks for behavioral expressions, which include: stress resilience, perseverance, goal-oriented acting, and working in a planned and systematic way. For example, planning ahead and accounting for all possible outcomes enables you to choose the best options (explicit anticipation). People that are adept in anticipatory thinking are better at assessing how to act in many different situations and keep their performance up under complication and stress. You often see that people with good anticipation skills perform even better under pressure and in stressful environments compared to workplaces where their anticipation capacities are not tested to their limits!

When the roof is on fire
People with high levels of anticipation skills will be most likely to thrive best in environments that require a lot of switching between activities, tasks and different types of information. For example, firefighters depend on their anticipation skills during their work. The moment a firefighter enters a burning building, the safety of a firefighter (and often the safety of others) depend on his or her ability to anticipate unexpected events. For example, a collapsing roof or an explosion could always happen and a firefighter must be prepared. In the heat of the moment, one’s level of anticipation can make the difference between life and death.

Anticipation and the non-flying Dutchman
When thinking about a role model of someone who possesses some exceptionally good anticipation skills, the first person that popped into my mind was the Dutch soccer player, Dennis Bergkamp. Dennis Bergkamp, known for his fear of flying, which even caused him to miss some of the most important matches in his career, owned his true fame to his exceptional soccer skills. Mainly, because of the fact that he never had to react on the actions of his teammates. To the contrary, he was always already at the right place at the right time and always knew where the ball and his teammates would go before they did. This ability can only be assigned to anticipation skills of the highest level!

Contact us
Do you want to know whether you or your employees possess the same anticipation skills as the non-flying Dutchman? Or do you want to know more about brain abilities like anticipation (working memory, attention & control) and how measuring those cognitive abilities can improve HR in your company? Contact us: mike@brainsfirst.com