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Affective forecasting
is the process of predicting how future events will influence emotional well-being. People often use affective forecasting when making decisions. For example, people make choices about who to marry, where to live, and what to buy based on their affective forecasts about what will bring happiness. Unfortunately, affective forecasting is prone to error, which can lead to decisional regret (e.g., divorce, buyer's remorse, etc.). Thus, psychology and behavioral economics research has focused on understanding and improving affective forecasting in order to help people make decisions more effectively.

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Recent Articles on Affective Forecasting

Green, J. D., Davis, J. L., Luchies, L. B., Coy, A. E., Van Tongeren, D. R., Reid, C. A., & Finkel, E. J. (2013). Victims versus perpetrators: Affective and empathic forecasting regarding transgressions in romantic relationships. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49, 329-333. |PDF|

Both members of 104 couples predicted the degree to which they (affective forecast) and their partner (empathic forecast) would experience sadness in response to 20 relationship transgressions, in both victim and perpetrator roles.... Participants forecast greater sadness for themselves and their partner in both the victim and perpetrator roles than they actually experienced.

Hoerger, M., Chapman, B. P., Epstein, R. M., & Duberstein, P. R. (2012). Emotional intelligence: A theoretical framework for individual differences in affective forecasting. Emotion, 12, 716-725. |PDF|

The present investigation was designed to make a theoretical contribution to this emerging literature by examining the role of emotional intelligence in affective forecasting. Emotional intelligence was associated with accuracy in predicting, encoding, and consolidating emotional reactions. Furthermore, emotional intelligence was associated with greater improvement on a second affective forecasting task, with the relationship explained by basic memory processes.

Hoerger, M., Quirk, S. W., Chapman, B. P., & Duberstein, P. R. (2012). Affective forecasting and self-rated symptoms of depression, anxiety, and hypomania: Evidence for a dysphoric forecasting bias. Cognition & Emotion, 26, 1098-1106. |PDF|

Pitting cognitive theory against depressive realism theory, we examined whether dysphoria was associated with negatively biased affective forecasts or greater accuracy.... Consistent with cognitive theory, we found evidence for a "dysphoric forecasting bias" -- the tendency of individuals in dysphoric states to overpredict negative emotional reactions to future events.

Hoerger, M. (2012). Coping strategies and immune neglect in affective forecasting: Direct evidence and key moderators. Judgment and Decision Making, 7, 86-96. |PDF|

Immune neglect -- the tendency to overlook coping strategies that reduce future distress -- may lead to affective forecasting problems.... Supporting the immune neglect hypothesis, participants overlooked the powerful role of coping strategies when predicting their emotional reactions. Immune neglect was present not only for those experiencing a negative event but also for those experiencing a positive event, suggesting that the bias may be more robust than originally theorized.

Tomlinson, J. M., Carmichael, C. L., Reis, H. T., Aron, A. (2010). Affective forecasting and individual differences: Accuracy for relational events and anxious attachment. Emotion, 10, 447-453. |PDF|

Participants predicted what their happiness would be after entering or ending a romantic relationship.... Predictions were largely unrelated to anxious attachment, but actual happiness was negatively related to attachment anxiety. Moderation for breaking up showed a similar but less consistent pattern. These results suggest a failure to account for one’s degree of anxious attachment when making affective forecasts.

Emanuel, A. S., Updegraff, J. A., Kalmbach, D. A., & Ciesla, J. A. (2010). The role of mindfulness facets in affective forecasting. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 815-818. |PDF|

One facet of mindfulness, observing one’s internal state, was associated with more moderate affective forecasts as well as a decreased susceptibility to the impact bias. Findings highlight sources of individual differences in susceptibility to the impact bias and shed light on how to improve people’s ability to forecast for emotional experiences.

Hoerger, M., Quirk, S. W., Lucas, R. E., & Carr, T. H. (2010). Cognitive determinants of affective forecasting errors. Judgment and Decision Making, 5, 365-373. |PDF|

Results showed that the perceived importance of the event and working memory capacity were both associated with an increased impact bias for some participants... An experimental manipulation effectively reduced biased forecasts.... The possible functional role of the impact bias is discussed within the context of evolutionary psychology.

Hoerger, M., Quirk, S. W., Lucas, R. E., & Carr, T. H. (2010). Cognitive determinants of affective forecasting errors. Judgment and Decision Making, 5, 365-373. |PDF|

Results showed that the perceived importance of the event and working memory capacity were both associated with an increased impact bias for some participants... An experimental manipulation effectively reduced biased forecasts.... The possible functional role of the impact bias is discussed within the context of evolutionary psychology.

Hoerger, M., Quirk, S. W., Lucas, R. E., & Carr, T. H. (2009). Immune neglect in affective forecasting. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 91-94. |PDF|

People fail to consider how coping resources will ameliorate negative affect, a phenomenon termed immune neglect.... Those reporting greater use of emotional processing coping strategies recovered more effectively from losses, but failed to foresee this when making predictions, leading to immune neglect.... An experimental manipulation helped reduce this bias.... This is the first study to document individual differences in immune neglect.

Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2005). Affective forecasting knowing what to want. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 131-134. |PDF|

People base many decisions on affective forecasts, 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.... Several implications are discussed, such as the tendency for people to attribute their unexpected resilience to external agents.


Core Readings on Affective Forecasting

Wilson, T. D., Wheatley, T. P., Meyers, J. M., Gilbert, D. T., & Axsom, D. (2000). Focalism: A source of durability bias in affective forecasting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 821-836. |PDF|

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.... The authors discuss the implications of focalism for other literatures, such as the planning fallacy.

Gilbert, D. T., Pinel, E. C., Wilson, T. D., Blumberg, S. J., & Wheatley, T. (1998). Immune neglect: A source of durability bias in affective forecasting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 617-638. |PDF|

People are generally unaware of the operation of the system of cognitive mechanisms that ameliorate their experience of negative affect (the psychological immune system), and thus they tend to overestimate the duration of their affective reactions to negative events.... The present experiments suggest that people neglect the psychological immune system when making affective forecasts.