Lectures 11 & 12:Affective Forecasting Wilson, T.D., & Gilbert, D.T. (2003). Affective forecasting. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 345-411.
The Power of a Crystal Ball:Predicting the Future (fat wallets & hot dates) Self-Projection where will I be? what will I be doing? who will I be doing it with? Decision Making uncertainty (Kahneman & Tversky, 2000) accuracy (Osberg & Shrauger, 1986) temporal perspective (Trope & Liberman, 2004) biases in prediction (Armor & Taylor, 1998) What’s missing? anticipating events vs. anticipating feelings
Forecasting Feelings:How Happy Will I Be? How much happiness will events bring? How long will happiness last? Will owning a sportscar make me happy? Will a cool drink be more refreshing than an ice-cream? Marrying which twin will bring more happiness in the long run? AFFECTIVE FORECASTING (measuring predicted and experienced emotional responses - accuracy)
Predicting One’s Emotions:Types of Affective Forecasts and Errors Affective Forecasts - 4 components (1) predictions about the valence of one’s feelings (2) specific emotions that will be experienced (3) intensity of the emotions (4) duration of emotions
Predicting Valence Are people mistaken about the valence of future events? Wilson et al. (2002) - staged a dating game in which students competed with a same-sex student for a hypothetical date with an opposite-sex student. Experiences were randomly assigned to win or lose the date, after which they rated their mood. Forecasters estimated what their mood would be if they won or lost the date. All forecasters estimated that they would be in a better mood if they won than lost (which mirrored the actual judgments of the experiencers). However, forecasters overestimated how positive or negative they would feel.
Predicting Specific Emotions While people are quite accurate at forecasting what they will feel - when exactly an event will take place shapes their reactions. Liberman et al. (2002) - noted that people have overly simplistic reactions to emotional events when thinking about the distant (compared to the near) future. good day tomorrow (positive events with a few negative occurrences) good day in a year (people only report positive events) Thus, people’s forecasts may be more realistic for events that will happen soon, but onverly simplistic for events far in the future.
Predicting Intensity and Duration I’ve won the lottery. How happy will I feel? For how long will I be happy? I’ve dumped my partner. How sad will I feel? How long will the pain last?
Some Initial Observations:Duration, Duration, Duration Durability Bias People have a tendency to overestimate the duration of their future emotional reactions (Gilbert et al., 1998) How happy will you feel the day after your favourite team wins an important game? people overestimate their happiness (Wilson et al., 2000) - but what is biased (i) estimation of happiness, (ii) reduction in happiness over time, or (iii) both?
Durability Reconsidered Impact Bias People have a tendency to overestimate the enduring impact that future events will have on their emotional reactions (Gilbert, Driver-Linn, & Wilson, 2002). overestimate intensity underestimate rate of dissipation
Exploring the Impact Bias impact bias = most prevalent forecasting error people overestimate the impact of future events on their emotional reactions People (college students, professors, sports fans, dieters, holiday makers, snake phobics, medical test takers) Events (romantic breakups, personal insults, sports victories, electoral defeats, failure to lose weight, results of pregnancy tests) So why does the ‘impact bias’ occur? Why does affective forecasting go awry?
Process of Affective Forecasting Wilson & Gilbert (2002)
Affective Forecasting:Sources of Error Construal - bringing the event to mind! traffic jam vs. getting married (having a baby) The problem of misconstrual - people mistakenly imagine the wrong event. How will your wedding day unfold? romantic bliss vs. stressful, fight with in-laws, food poisoning. The future doesn’t always match our expectancies?
1. Misconstrual Woodzicka and LaFrance (2001) asked women to predict how they would react if asked sexually harassing questions (3) during a job interview (and compared these reactions with the behaviour of women who experienced such questions). 68% of forecasters said they would refuse to answer at least 1 of the 3 questions; 28% said they would confront the interviewer This was completely at odds with the behaviour of the experiencers. Why? The forecasters imagined a different situation than the one confronted by the experiencers (i.e., not always easy to approach and confront a harasser). Misconstruals of future situations provide the greatest latitude of affective forecasting errors (as there is no limit to how inaccurate people’s construals can be)
2. Framing Effects Representations of events also depend on the way in which people frame them, such as the particular aspects of events that capture their attention. Isolation Effect - people disregard components that alternatives share and focus on components that distinguish between them (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979) What will make me most happy…a holiday by the ocean or a weekend break in a large city? sometimes shared features are important!
Location, Location, Location Dunn, Wilson & Gilbert (2003) asked college students to forecast what their overall level of happiness would be the following year if they lived in various campus dorms (random assignment to dorms)- people’s forecasts were much more a function of their ratings of the physical features (which varied considerably) than the common social features (good relationships with other members of the dorm). this resulted in a strong impact bias, by focusing too much on a variable that distinguished the dorms, people overestimated the effect of dorm assignment on happiness. predicted actual undesirable dorm 3.43 5.37 desirable dorm 5.96 5.45
Consequences of Framing Framing effects would produce an impact bias if people focus their attention on features that they think will influence their emotional states but that actually will be of little importance. Dunn, Wilson & Gilbert (2003) So, construal and framing. Any other important factors?
3. Recall and Affective Theories Imagine that misconstrual and framing effects have been avoided, the next important step is bringing to mind an accurate representation of the future event. previously experienced events (e.g., root canal work) = how did it make me feel in the past? So how accurate is memory for past emotional experiences?
What do We Remember? Memories are reconstructed not replayed. People can remember that root canal treatment is painful, but the pain itself is not stored in memory in a form that can be retrieved later. Instead of replaying past emotions, people recall details of an experience and have emotional reactions to these memories (e.g., the sound of the drill, the pizza in Venice). As such, there is no guarantee that the feelings evoked by these memories are the same as the feelings they originally experienced. Episodic details disappear, theories take over (Robinson & Clore, 2002)
Mood and Menstruation McFarland, Ross and DeCourville (1989) noted that many women hold the theory that they are in worse moods during menstruation and recall being in bad moods during their periods. however, when asked to rate their mood on a daily basis for several weeks, these women were in a no worse mood when they were menstruating than when they were not. Thus, people’s recall of their emotional experiences is biased in systematic ways, prompting errors in affective forecasting (intensity & duration).
4. Correction for Unique Influences A basic problem with assessing our affective reaction to an event (e.g., getting divorced) and deciding how likely we are to have the same reaction in the future is that the circumstances under which people make affective forecasts are almost always different from the circumstances under which they will actually experience an event. As such, people must subtract out several potential sources of bias on their current assessments of their feelings (i.e., correction for unique influences).
Projection Bias Imagine you have flu and are trying to decide whether to go to a party in 2 weeks time. Typically people’s current emotional state taints their predictions about how they will feel in the future. Projection Bias – tendency for people to under-appreciate the effects of changes in their states, hence falsely project their current preferences (and feelings) onto their future preferences (and feelings). Loewenstein et al. (1999) this bias is an instance of mental contamination – people’s judgments, emotions and behaviours are influenced in unwanted ways (Wilson & Brekke, 1994).
Mental Decontamination is Tricky why is decontamination tricky (Wilson & Brekke, 1994)? awareness of bias knowledge of direction of bias motivation to correct ability to correct shoppers who have not eaten fail to take this into account when in the supermarket (Gilbert et al., 2002). how much would you enjoy eating spaghetti tomorrow morning or evening? Under cognitive load, hungry participants fail to adjust their judgments and report that spaghetti for breakfast would be very enjoyable (Gilbert et al., 2002) Thus, inadequate correction can lead to a range of forecasting errors.
5. Expectation Effects (Assimilation & Contrast) Expectation effects occur when people’s affective forecasts change their actual emotional experience. Imagine going to a movie believing it will be the best comedy of the year or just another film. assimilation = people who expect the movie to be good like it more. contrast = people who expect to like the movie enjoy it less.
Triggering Assimilation Assimilation occurs when people’s expectations are not too discrepant from their experiences (i.e., the movie is not quite as good as people expected – Wilson & Klaaren,1994) Wilson et al. (1989) showed participants 6 cartoons, 3 of which were relatively funny and 3 of which were not. When people viewed the cartoons with no expectations about how funny they would be they noticed the discrepancy and rated the first 3 as funnier than the last 3. When people were told that previous participants had found all 6 cartoons to be funny they showed evidence of assimilation (i.e., the found the last 3 cartoons to be as funny as the first 3).
6. Unique Influences on Actual Emotional Experience – Hot/Cold Mind Sets Just as there are unique influences on people’s assessments of their emotional reactions to events when making an affective forecast, so too there are unique influences on their actual emotional experiences – unique in the sense that they influence people’s emotions but not their forecasts, leading to a discrepancy between the two. Hot vs. Cold Emotional States (Loewenstein et al., 1998)
Fancy a Twix? Loewenstein et al. (1998) approached visitors to a museum, gave them an 11-item trivia quiz, and asked them to choose either a candy bar or the answers to the questions as compensation. ‘Cold’ State (choose before taking the test) – 79% candy bar ‘Hot’ State (choose after test) – 40% candy bar ‘Forecasters’ (what would be choose after test) – 62% candy bar People in cold states have difficulty imagining what they will prefer in hot states.
7. Unique Influences on Actual Emotional Experience –Focalism In addition to failing to anticipate unique influences on their emotional reactions to an event, people often fail to anticipate the extent to which unrelated events will influence their thoughts and emotions, a tendency that has been termed focalism (Wilson et al., 2000). Events do not occur in a vacuum, but rather in the context of other happenings that shape people’s reactions. By neglecting to consider how much these other events will capture their attention and influence their emotions, people overestimate the impact of the focal event.
Exploring Focalism Wilson et al. (2000) required college football fans (2 months before a game) to report how happy they would feel (immediately after the game) if their team won. The day after the game (which the team won) they rated their happiness. Participants displayed a strong impact bias, such that they predicted that they would be above their baseline level of happiness. In reality, there were no happier than usual. before making predictions, a second group of participants were asked to imagine a day in the future and report the number of hours they would spend performing 10 different activities (e.g., going to class, socializing). It was anticipated that when these people rated how happy they would be after the game, the salience of other events would impact their judgments of happiness. The results revealed exactly this effect, such that participants predicted that the game would have less impact on their levels of happiness (i.e., correction for focalism)
8. Sense Making Processes Arguably the most important source of affective forecasting errors involve psychological processes that moderate people’s emotional reactions. birth of child lottery win job loss People’s emotional reactions to events become less intense with time (Wilson et al., 2002). emotional evanescence A major source of impact bias is that people fail to anticipate the extent to which psychological factors will ameliorate the impact of significant events.
The Emotional Implications of Sense Making People make senses of their worlds in a way that speeds recovery from emotional events and sense making is largely automatic and non-conscious. Sense Making and Emotional Evanescence – 4 steps 1. people orient to unexpected but relevant information (i.e., goal-relevant). 2. people have more intense emotional reactions to unexpected, relevant information than to other events. 3. once an unexpected event occurs and people have an intense emotional reaction, they attempt to make sense of the event (i.e., predictable world). 4. when people make sense of an event, it no longer seems unexpected and surprising (i.e., less emotional)
Failure to Anticipate Sense-Making Processes:Positive Events People fail to anticipate how much they will transform events psychologically in ways that reduce their emotional power (extraordinary becomes ordinary). ordinization neglect Does a positive event produce lasting happiness? Gilbert et al. (1998) noted that a positive tenure decision did not cause the lasting happiness that untenured professors had anticipated.
Psychological Immune System:Making Sense of Bad Stuff People possess powerful psychological defenses that serve to ameliorate the impact of negative emotional experiences. They are especially motivated to interpret negative events in ways that minimize their impact. Like other sense making processes, the psychological immune system occurs largely outside of awareness.
Failure to Anticipate Sense-Making Processes:Negative Events A major form of impact bias in response to negative events is that people fail to anticipate how much their psychological immune system will hasten their recovery. immune neglect Does a negative life event produce lasting misery? Gilbert et al. (1998) noted that people predicted they would be equally unhappy if they received negative personality feedback from two clinical psychologists who had examined their test results or from a computer program. In reality, people who received feedback from the computer were less unhappy (i.e., rationalization…”what does a computer know about people?”).
Things Worth Knowing • What is affective forecasting? • How and why does affective forecasting go awry?