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Forecasting the Duration of Emotions: A Motivational Account and Self-Other Differences

Cláudia Simão

Did  you  ever  wonder  how  long  would  you  feel  happy  if  you  won  the  lottery?  Or  how  long  would  you  be  angry  if  you  got  fired  from  your  job?  And  what  about  one  of  your  co-workers,  or  a  neighbor?  Thinking  about  the  future  is  full  of  predictions  about  how  people  will  feel  and  for  how  long.  Based  on  these  predictions  people  will  make  decisions  on  how  much  they  should  invest  in  a  lottery  ticket  or  how  much  hard  work  
they  should  put  on  their  job.  Evidence  from  research  on  affective  forecasting  has  suggested  that  there  is  a  strong  degree  of  inaccuracy  and  over-  or  underestimation  of  these  affective  states.  What  is  then  the  ingredient  that  makes  our  predictions  powerfully  influence  our  decisions  when  we  know  that  often  we  are  just  overreacting?  Desirability!  Wishing  for  the  positive  things  to  happen  and  for  the  negative  things  to  fade  is  one  of  the  best  strategies  to  maximize  well-being  and  to  avoid  pain.  To  investigate  this  assumption,  we  conducted  six  studies  with  hundreds  of  people,  to  test  if  there  was  an  asymmetry  in  forecasting  the  duration  of  positive  vs.  negative  emotions  for  the  self  but  not  for  others.  As  recently  published  in  the  Journal  Emotion,  we  found  robust  evidence  for  the  fact  that  forecasting  the  emotion  duration  is  predicted  by  the  desire  that  events  were  to  happen  to  the  self  (vs.  others).  Some  participants  in  our  studies  were  asked  to  imagine  a  series  of  positive  events  (e.g.,  having  their  work  recognized  with  an  international  award;  graduating  in  the  top  three  of  the  class;  winning  the  lottery)  and  a  series  of  negative  events  (e.g.,  being  betrayed  by  his/her  loved  one;  having  cancer;  getting  fired)  as  if  they  were  happening  to  the  self.  Other  participants  were  asked  to  imagine  the  same  events  as  if  they  were  to  happen  to  an  average  person.  After  each  event  everyone  was  asked  to  estimate  the  duration  of  happiness  for  positive  events  and  sadness  for  negative  events  and  the  extent  to  which  they  found  each  of  the  event  desirable.  Among  those  who  made  estimates  for  the  self,  happiness  was  estimated  to  last  significantly  longer  than  sadness.  This  valence  asymmetry  was  highly  related  to  the  desirability  of  the  event,  which  was  found  only  for  the  self  but  not  for  average  others.  To  make  our  account  more  solid,  in  another  study,  some  participants  read  about  how  desirable  is  to  experience  more  negative  and  less  positive  emotions.  The  other  participants  were  not  instructed  to  read  anything  (control  group).  Next  participants  were  asked  to  estimate  the  duration  of  happiness  for  the  same  positive  events  and  the  duration  of  sadness  for  the  same  negative  events.  For  those  participants  who  were  encouraged  to  desire  more  negative  and  less  positive  emotions,  the  duration  asymmetry  between  happiness  and  sadness  was  less  pronounced  than  for  participants  in  the  control  group.  Motivated  thinking  is  actually  a  powerful  tool  to  influence  decision-making  and  to  maximize  the  experience  of  desirable  affective  states.  However,  we  believe  that  desirable  asymmetric  forecasts  for  the  self  vs.  others  may  have  harsh  consequences  on  different  grounds.  Particularly,  in  
risk-taking  behavior:  If  people  believe  that  their  own  desirable  emotions  are  to  last  longer  than  their  undesirable  ones,  they  might  underestimate  the  consequences  of  their  undesirable  behavior,  becoming  more  vulnerable  to  irrational  financial  decisions  or  unhealthy  behaviors. 

Mata,  A.,  Simão,  C.,  Farias,  A.  R.,  &  Steimer,  A.  (2018).  Forecasting  the  Duration  of  Emotions:  A  Motivational  Account  and  Self-Other  Differences.  Emotion.


Better or Different? How Political Ideology Shapes Preferences for Differentiation in the Social Hierarchy

Daniel Fernandes

Previous research shows that all consumers seek differentiation in choices. Consumers want to show their identity in their choices. We show that liberals and conservatives seek differentiation in distinct ways. Liberals seek horizontal differentiation with more unique, different, personalized products, whereas conservatives seek vertical differentiation with more status, luxurious, high price products. This is because conservatives and liberals hold opposing beliefs about the legitimacy of the social hierarchy. Conservatives endorse the dominance-based view that the social hierarchy legitimately reflects individual differences in effort and ability, whereas liberals oppose that view. Someone driving a convertible Ferrari is more likely to vote for Trump. And someone wearing orange tennis shoes is more likely to vote for Obama.

Ordabayeva, N. & Fernandes, D. (2018). Better or Different? How Political Ideology Shapes Preferences for Differentiation in the Social Hierarchy. Journal of Consumer Research.


How Am I Doing? Perceived Financial Well-Being, Its Potential Antecedents, and Its Relation to Overall Well-Being

Daniel Fernandes

Regarding the financial well-being paper, in a nutshell, we develop a scale of financial well-being that is composed of two related, but separate constructs: 1) current money management stress); and 2) expected future financial security. Separate antecedents predict these two constructs. Present-biased behaviors like making late or minimum payments, being materialistic and lacking self-control increase current money management stress, whereas more long-term beneficial behaviors like planning for money, having savings and investments, and being willing to take risks increase future financial security. Financial well-being explains about half of the variance in general well-being. This is a very strong effect for social science standards. For comparison purposes, other important domains of life such as relationship support, job satisfaction, and health altogether explain another half of the variance in general well-being. This shows that our personal finances represent a key part of our well-being. For low-income consumers, current money management stress has a stronger influence on well-being. For middle and high-income consumers, what really matters is a sense of future financial security.

Netemeyer, R. G., Warmath, D., Fernandes, D. & Lynch Jr., J.  (in press). How Am I Doing? Perceived Financial Well-Being, Its Potential Antecedents, and Its Relation to Overall Well-Being. Journal of Consumer Research.


What's next? Disentangling availability from representativeness using binary decision tasks

João Niza Braga

Will Cristiano Ronaldo be the star of the upcoming champions league?

In order to make predictions about the future, people often rely on easy and quick intuitions, heuristics. In the present research, we show that people are faster to come up with the intuition that the future will be a simple continuation of the most recent and accessible past (the availability heuristic) than to have the intuition that the future will match a pattern of outcomes that is representative of the event we are trying to predict (the representativeness heuristic).

For instance, people may use the representativeness heuristic and think about Cristiano Ronaldo as a 34 year-old professional footballer with a declining athletic condition who just moved to a different team, so he is likely to have a disappointing performance next season . However, in such busy and demanding world, where decisions are often made under time pressure, we are more prone to use the availability heuristic and expect Cristiano Ronaldo to continue the outstanding performance he has been delivering over the last seasons in the upcoming season.

Braga, J. N., Ferreira, M. B., Sherman, S. J., Mata, A., Jacinto, S., & Ferreira, M. (2018). What's next? Disentangling availability from representativeness using binary decision tasks. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 307-319.