wilson,focalism - ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL COGNITION Focalism:...

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ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL COGNITION Focalism: A Source of Durability Bias in Affective Forecasting Timothy D. Wilson, Thalia Wheatley, and Jonathan M. Meyers University of Virginia Daniel T. Gilbert Harvard University Danny Axsom Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University 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 antic- ipating 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 happi- ness, 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 Timothy D. Wilson, Thalia Wheatley, and Jonathan M. Meyers, Depart- ment of Psychology, University of Virginia; Daniel T. Gilbert, Department of Psychology, Harvard University; Danny Axsom, Department of Psy- chology, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. We gratefully acknowledge the support of research Grant RO1- MH5607S from the National Institute of Mental Health. We thank Alesha Pelter, Jeff Smith, and Reggie Tyree for their help in conducting the research. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tim- othy D. Wilson, Department of Psychology, Gilmer Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903. Electronic mail may be sent to [email protected] arthritis, a dysfunctional marriage, and the minimum wage. How-
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This note was uploaded on 05/12/2010 for the course PSYCHOLOGY clinical p taught by Professor Assistant during the Spring '10 term at École Normale Supérieure.

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wilson,focalism - ATTITUDES AND SOCIAL COGNITION Focalism:...

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