What comes next in the series?
1, 2, 3, 4, __
Did you guess 5? How quickly did you guess? Did you have any doubt about it?
Your brain is hard-wired to search out, catalog, and recognize patterns. It's what allows you to predict the world around you, and you need that capability to survive.
If someone throws a ball at you, you know pretty accurately the trajectory of the ball. You then make the choice to either catch it or step out of the way. Or you remain motionless and get hit, which informs your action the next time someone throws a ball at you. (Or maybe you like getting hit... but no one would have predicted that.)
A ball in flight must respond to gravity, which is an immutable law of physics. Your friend, however, has few, if any, immutable laws. Predicting your friend's behavior is, at best, guesswork in the context of past behavior, and at worst, utter conjecture on your part. But like it or not, you're predisposed to do it, and you'll do it almost without thinking.
When you first meet someone, you see them and immediately file through the hundreds of people you've met in life to find someone similar. How often do you hear yourself say to this stranger, "You remind of someone I used to know?" That right there is patterning. Whether you find a match for them or not is irrelevant - your search through your database is as instantaneous as it is unavoidable. Then something amazing happens. You begin to respond emotionally to them out of recognition, even though you don't really know them.
Prediction is a good thing - until it isn't. Some people put a great deal of trust into a first impression. "Oh, I sized him up right away. I had his number."
When you do this, it's important that you know it's a guess, and not fact. You might be right; and then again, you might not be right.
It is quite normal to look for the smallest of cues to create a prediction in a fleeting moment. Zodiac sign, style of clothes, a facial expression, job title, etc, etc. We anchor to that prediction we make. It's hard to let go of it, but it's important to recognize that it's only a prediction, uninformed by facts of the individual or circumstance, and when we act on a false prediction, it can trip us up.
It's critical to know when you don't truly know.
Therefore, it's critical to know when you're making a prediction. No matter how informed by previous experience you are, it's wise to acknowledge that your assertion is still a prediction based on patterns you recognize.
No wonder it's so hard to see things as they really are.