Affective forecasting: Why can't people predict their emotions?

Thinking and Reasoning 13 (1):62 – 80 (2007)
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Abstract

Two studies explore the frequently reported finding that affective forecasts are too extreme. In the first study, driving test candidates forecast the emotional consequences of failing. Test failers overestimated the duration of their disappointment. Greater previous experience of this emotional event did not lead to any greater accuracy of the forecasts, suggesting that learning about one's own emotions is difficult. Failers' self-assessed chances of passing were lower a week after the test than immediately prior to the test; this difference correlated with the magnitude of individual immediate disappointments, suggesting the presence of a cognitive strategy for recovering from disappointments. A second study investigated the theory that undue focus on the differences between present and future biases affective forecasts. “Defocusing” that induced low-level construals of the future reduced the extremeness of affective forecasts but a higher-level construal did not. We conclude that a focusing effect may bias affective forecasts.

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