Wilson%20et%20al%20(Focalism) - Journal of Personality and...

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Unformatted text preview: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology © by the American Psychological Association May 2000 Vol. 78, No. 5, 821-836 For personal use only--not for distribution. Focalism A Source of Durability Bias in Affective Forecasting Timothy D. Wilson Department of Psychology University of Virginia Thalia Wheatley Department of Psychology University of Virginia Jonathan M. Meyers Department of Psychology University of Virginia Daniel T. Gilbert Department of Psychology Harvard University Danny Axsom Department of Psychology Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University ABSTRACT The durability bias, the tendency to overpredict the duration of affective reactions to future events, may be due in part to focalism, whereby people focus too much on the event in question and not enough on the consequences of other future events. If so, asking people to think about other future activities should reduce the durability bias. In Studies 1—3, college football fans were less likely to overpredict how long the outcome of a football game would influence their happiness if they first thought about how much time they would spend on other future activities. Studies 4 and 5 ruled out alternative explanations and found evidence for a distraction interpretation, that people who think about future events moderate their forecasts because they believe that these events will reduce thinking about the focal event. The authors discuss the implications of focalism for other literatures, such as the planning fallacy. The pleasures and pains, joys and sufferings, which people actually experience, often fall short of what they had anticipated ... In anticipating a coming event we have it alone in mind, and make no provision for other occurrences. ( Tatarkiewicz, 1962/1976 ) If a genie popped out of a lamp and offered you three wishes, would you attain lasting happiness? Most of us think that, like Aladdin, we would become happier people. Perfect health, true love, and untold riches would be ours for the asking, and who would not enjoy blessings such as these? To obtain lasting happiness, however, people have to know what to wish for. In the present studies, we tested the hypothesis that people often think about the future in ways that reduce the accuracy of their affective forecasts. Undoubtedly, people know a great deal about what will make them happy. Most of us recognize that it would be better to ask the genie for good health, true love, and lots of money than for severe arthritis, a dysfunctional marriage, and the minimum wage. However, predictions about the affective consequences of future events may not always be correct. Miswanting is the case in which people do not like or dislike an event as much as they thought they would ( Gilbert & Wilson, 2000 ; Mitchell, Thompson, Peterson, & Cronk, 1997 )....
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Wilson%20et%20al%20(Focalism) - Journal of Personality and...

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