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Unformatted text preview: U N C O R R E C T E D P R O O F Affective Forecasting Knowing What to Want Timothy D. Wilson 1 and Daniel T. Gilbert 2 1 University of Virginia, 2 Harvard University ABSTRACT People base many decisions on affective fore- casts, predictions about their emotional reactions to future events. They often display an impact bias , overestimating the intensity and duration of their emotional reactions to such events. One cause of the impact bias is focalism , the tendency to underestimate the extent to which other events will influence our thoughts and feelings. Another is peoples failure to anticipate how quickly they will make sense of things that happen to them in a way that speeds emotional recovery. This is especially true when predicting reactions to negative events: People fail to anticipate how quickly they will cope psychologically with such events in ways that speed their recovery from them. Several implications are discussed, such as the tendency for people to attribute their unexpected resilience to external agents. KEYWORDS affectiveforecasting;prediction;emotion;sense making Manycultures havemyths inwhichpeoplecanmaketheirwishes come true. The story of Aladdin and his lamp is best known to readers of the Arabian Nights (and to Disney fans); in Irish leg- ends, it is leprechauns who make wishes come true; whereas in a Chinesefableitisanobligingdragonthathastheheadofacamel, the eyes of a hare, the neck of a snake, the claws of an eagle, and the ears of a buffalo (McNeil, 2003). Common to these myths is the notion that if people (perhaps with the help of a genie) could make their wishes come true, they would achieve everlasting happiness. Sometimes, however, people are disappointed by the very things they think they want. Research on affective forecasting has shown that people routinely mispredict how much pleasure or displeasure future events will bring and, as a result, sometimes work to bring about events that do not maximize their happiness. These mispredictions can take a number of forms. People can be wrong about how positive or negative their reactions to future events will be, particularly if what unfolds is different from what they had imagined. Prospective dog owners might predict that Rover will bring nothing but joy because they picture a faithful companion who obediently fetches the newspaper each morning insteadofanobstinatebeastwhochewsshoesanddemands6:00- a.m. walks in the freezing rain. Generally, however, humans are adept at predicting whether events are likely to be pleasant or unpleasant.Evenaratcanreadily learnthatpressingonebarwill produce a food pellet and another an electric shock and will vote withitspawsforthemorepleasantoption.Peopleknowthataroot beer will be more pleasant than a root canal....
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