Summer 2016: Predictions From A Psychologist


Summer 2016 is finally here and I’ve got a weird hobby, though not as weird as, say, taxidermy or ukulele collecting. I like to predict the outcomes of reality TV shows and movie box office results. Like I said, only slightly weird, but those who know me will attest to the fact that I have a remarkable track record. As a psychologist, I think I like doing this because it’s about trying to predict human behavior on a large scale. Nate Silver of 538 has popularized using data to predict all kinds of things, especially national elections. Others, like me, who don’t have access to big datasets, use principles of human behavior. Sometimes human behavior is easy to predict (like Netflix’s movie recommendations: “Because you watched Ninja Cheerleaders…”) and sometimes human behavior is inexplicable (“The Republican nominee for President is…”).

Predicting pop culture is a mixed bag. You’d think by now predicting the Oscars would be a cold science. You can look at the early indicators (SAG Awards, Golden Globes, and so on) and then make your call. If that were true, how come everyone, including this guy, picked Sylvester Stallone to win this past year? I guess it’s not exactly a science just yet.

Some TV shows are impossible to predict. For example, you can’t predict The Amazing Race because there are too many out-of- control variables. Ditto for Survivor. The Voice is surprisingly tricky because the rules are so weird. You can save someone onto another team. The judges and not the viewers eliminate the contestants until they don’t. Stuff like that. It complicates the process so much you can’t predict the outcome in the early stages.

The shows that are fair game for prediction are Dancing with the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol (farewell), and, surprisingly, The Bachelor (or Bachelorette). This is because they are based on a fairly closed set of variables that rest largely on human behavior—a skill, human attraction, stupidity. The same is true of predicting the song of the summer and the box office champ. So let me make three big predictions now, show you how I make the calls, then let you check me on all of them in August.

Let’s start with the easiest one.

Box Office Champ

Each summer the box office champ is pretty predictable: Jurassic World, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, and so on. None of them are hard calls. This summer will be fairly easy to call, as well. Of course we start with Captain America: Civil War, a film that has already destroyed the international box office. Its competition is X-Men Apocalypse, Independence Day, Finding Dory (the Finding Nemo sequel), Ghostbusters, Jason Bourne, and Suicide Squad. Occasionally you have a surprise that sneaks in, like Guardians of the Galaxy, but even that isn’t a complete shocker. It’s still a superhero movie within the Marvel universe. It’s not completely out of left field, even if it was completely original.

So let’s predict this summer. Here’s how we make the call:

  • Superheroes have the advantage – 9 out of the top 25 highest grossing summer films were superhero movies. It’s the leading genre by far. By the way, animated films do well, too. Six of the remaining 16 are animated.
  • Action/Adventure rules – 17 of those same 25 films were focused on action and adventure stories.
  • Make it a known quantity – 19 of those 25 films are part of known franchises. They are either sequels or part of a larger universe that is already established with the movie-going public. The more successful the franchise or universe, the greater the probability of success.
  • Make it a 4 quadrant film – Are you familiar with this concept? It’s a simple idea in the motion picture industry that looks like this:


Basically, the most successful films need to appeal to male and female, younger and older. If it hits all four quadrants in a big way, it’s likely to be a huge hit.

With all this said, it suggests the highest grossing films of the summer are likely to be:

Captain America: Civil War


Finding Dory

My prediction: Captain America: Civil War


**Fun Fact: your allegiance can actually say a lot about you. Find out here.**

Song of the Summer

The song of the summer is a little trickier to pick because it does not rely on any artist or franchise track record like the movies do. Previously unknown artists like Carly Rae Jepson, LMFAO, and Iggy Azalea are all given a shot at the big boast. Determining the official song of the summer is a little tricky, though, since there is not one clear, agreed-upon metric. For our purposes, we’ll use Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for the summer months.

The competition is likely to come down to these two songs:

“One Dance” by Drake featuring Wizkid and Kyla


“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

Yes, there are other contenders like “Work” by Rihanna, “Panda” by Desiigner, “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers, and “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner. The latter song is, in my estimation, the best tune of the year so far.

So how do you pick? Here’s the criteria:

  • The song should evoke happy feelings – It’s the song of the summer. It has to be fun.
  • It should be easy to sing – You should want to sing it with the windows down driving down the road.
  • It should be a communal song – It’s a song that brings people together in public gatherings. One that causes people to sing together, dance together.
  • It should have a repeating catchy hook – This little factor can’t be underestimated.

My prediction: “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

The Bachelorette

Finally, I will tell you who the Bachelorette will pick this season. Full disclosure: I don’t watch the show. Honestly, the idea of the show is ridiculous to me and not that interesting (although some may disagree). However, picking the “winner” from the first episode is a great challenge. I only watch the segment where the contestants get out of the limo and greet the Bachelorette or Bachelor for the first time. In other words, I only watch about 20 minutes of the entire season. I have a pretty strong track record here, though I didn’t fare too well last season.

So how do I do it? Easy! I only look at the Bachelorette (or Bachelor). I don’t look at the contestants at all. If you see the little sparkle happen behind the eyes, you know there’s a chance. It’s rare but almost unmistakable when you see it. Based on just this one data point, I picked these five contestants in descending order of likelihood:

  1. Jordan
  2. Alex
  3. James Taylor
  4. Wells
  5. Luke

My prediction: Jordan

There you have it. Let’s meet again in August and see how I did.

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