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But How Did You Expect To Feel?: The Motivated Misremembering of Affective Forecasts

Associate Professor Alexander (Sasha) Fedorikhin, Indiana University

15th Mar 2013  02:00 pm - Room 214/215, H69 - Economics and Business Building

Research  on the hindsight bias has shown that when forecasts and experiences are  discrepant, people often recall their forecast as being closer to the  experience than it actually was.  The present research demonstrates that  people tend to misremember their affective forecasts even when their experience  was similar to their actual forecast.  In a series of studies, both  with real affective forecasts and under strict lab control, we  show that when experiences and expectations align, people recall their  affective forecasts as being less favorable than both their actual  forecasts and their actual experiences. We claim that people misremember their  forecasts so as to make the experience feel more surprising to  them.  Since surprising outcomes are often more elating than expected  outcomes, people feel happier when they misremember their predictions in this  way.  People evidently are motivated to convince themselves that a  good-as-expected experience was unexpectedly good. We demonstrate that people  report greater affective arousal at the time of recall when they misremember  their forecasts. Furthermore, this illusory surprise effect can actually alter  the choices that participants subsequently make.