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Impact Bias

 

Explanations > Theories > Impact Bias

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When we think about some emotional event, we tend to over-estimate how strongly we will feel, how long this will last and other factors that impact us. This applies to both negative and positive events.

In doing so, we tend to forget that other events in our life, as well as our general ability to recover from trauma will mitigate these feelings. Gilbert et al called this ability to recover the 'psychological immune system', in the way that we psychologically fight bad feelings and hence recover from trauma faster than we might otherwise do.

Research

Gilbert et al demonstrated in 6 studies that participants overestimated the duration of their affective reactions to the dissolution of a romantic relationship, the failure to achieve tenure, an electoral defeat, negative personality feedback, an account of a child's death and rejection by a prospective employer.

Example

When I think about breaking up with my girlfriend, I believe I will be so upset I will unable to do my job effectively for a long time to come.

So What?

Using it

Persuade people by asking them to think about the emotional impact of events you describe. They will over-estimate and hence be more open to suggestions.

Defending

Think twice when considering your emotional response to events. Know that we are better able to cope than we sometimes give ourselves credit for.

See also

Durability bias, Emotions

References

Gilbert, Pinel, Wilson, Blumberg and Wheatley (1998)

 

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