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The Impact Bias in Affective Forecasting: Focalism or Unforeseen Adaptation?
Author(s): 
Pages: 1201-1206
Year: Issue:  5
Journal: Psychological Science

Keyword:  affective forecastingimpact biasfocalismunforeseen adaptationinformation using;
Abstract: Over the last two decades, a substantial body of research has uncovered the impact bias, which reflects the tendency for people to overestimate the initial impact and/or the duration of an emotional event(Gilbert, et al., 1998; Wilson et al., 2000; Levine et al., 2012; Wirtz et al., 2003). Why do we make these errors in affective forecasts? One reason is focalism, the other is unforeseen adaptation. However, the boundary conditions of focalism and unforeseen adaptation have been poorly understood. Therefore, it is necessary to study when the focalism is more important for the impact bias.Two experiments were conducted. With between-subjects design, all participants were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions, that is, defocusing exercise, adaptation exercise, and control condition. Then, they were asked to predict the affect after different events(being admitted to graduate in E1 a, taking fracture surgery in E1 b, and moving to new campus in E2). The effects of three interventions(defocusing exercise, adaptation exercise, control condition) on impact bias were compared. In Experiment 1, the predicted affect and actual affect after the event were compared by t – test; results showed that under the condition of defocusing exercise there was no significant difference between the predicted affect and actual affect(E1a: t =.94, p >.05; E1b: t =1.67, p >.05), which means that there was no impact bias. However, under the condition of adaptation exercise(E1a: t =2.24, p <.05; E1b: t =2.82, p <.01) and control condition( E1a: t =2.50, p <.05; E1b: t =3.11, p <.01), the predicted affect was overestimated, which means there was an impact bias. In Experiment 2, first in the participant level, the actual affect was regressed on the predicted affect over six time points, in which the regression coeff icient β reflected the accuracy of affect forecasts. Then, the regression coefficients of three conditions(defocus exercise, adaption exercise, and control condition) were compared by ANOVA. Results showed that the defocusing exercise improved the accuracy of affective forecast significantly; however, participants in the adaptation exercise and control condition still overestimated the actual affect after future events, F(2,151) =2.99, p <.05. Therefore, in the present study, the focalism was the main source of the impact bias. Because the affective tasks of the present study provided clear situational clues, it concludes that when the situational clue is clear, focalism is the main source of impact bias.The present study has important theoretical contributions in that it clarified the boundary condition of the role of focalism and unforeseen adaptation in the impact bias from the viewpoint of information processing. The present study is also important to reduce the impact bias, for example, when the situational clue is clear, the impact bias can be reduced significantly by a defocusing exercise.
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