Being Unpredictable: Friend or Foe Matters

Oscar Ybarra, Matthew C. Keller, Emily Chan, Stephen M. Garcia, Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, Kimberly Rios Morrison, Andrew S. Baron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychological research has devoted much attention to how people judge and predict others. However, a full understanding of social perception necessitates incorporating the responses of the targets, who may have little interest in being predicted. The authors argue that whether people want to be predicted depends on the interpersonal context-in particular, competitive or cooperative ones. Study 1 used a unique behavioral measure and showed that competition participants, when asked to draw the flight path of a moth in a separate study, produced significantly more variable and significantly less predictable trajectories than did cooperation participants. Study 2 examined participants' self-assessments and showed that participants expecting a competitive interaction indicated that they were more difficult to predict, less willing to open up, and more willing to mislead. Together, the findings suggest that people are not always open to being predicted and that the form of these tendencies depends on features of the situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-267
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Competitive Advantage
  • Cooperation
  • Judging Others
  • Predicting Behavior
  • Unpredictability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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