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What's in the future? Why most people don't want to know

If you had a time machine, would you choose to visit your future?
/ Source: TODAY

If you had a time machine, would you choose to visit your past or future?

If you say "past", you've got plenty of company. Most people don't want to know what life has in store for them — whether the future brings good things or bad, a new study finds.

More than 2,000 people from Germany and Spain were asked in face-to-face interviews whether they would want to know about future events in their lives. Nearly all — 85 to 90 percent — would not want to know about upcoming negative events. Up to 70 percent preferred to remain ignorant of positive ones.

“If time travel could reveal important personal information, such as to whom one will be married in 10 years, many would rather travel backwards to avoid learning ‘bad’ news,” the study’s lead author Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin told TODAY.

For many of them, the reason was simple: spoilers.

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“The motivation for not wanting to know about positive events appears to be maintaining surprise and suspense, very much as one does not want to know in advance how a movie ends, or the murderer in an Agatha Christie story," said Gigerenzer.

Questions included:

  • “Would you want to know today when your partner will die?” 89.5 percent said no.
  • “Would you want to know today from what cause your partner will die?” 90.4 percent said no.
  • “Would you want to know today whether your marriage will end in divorce or not?” 86.5 percent said no.


  • “Would you want to know if there is life after death?” 56.9 percent said no.
  • “Would you want to know the gender of your child before birth?” 40.3 percent said no.

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The researchers also found that people who tended to avoid risk in life were the most likely to not want to know about the future.

“People simply don’t want to know,” said Frank Farley, a professor at Temple University and former president of the American Psychological Association. “While you might think that you’d want to look into the future to deal with it, I think the stress gets too high. ”

Farley said he’d like to see a similar study done in the United States, where he expects that the numbers might be a little different.