Accuracy and artifact: reexamining the intensity bias in affective forecasting. Academic Article uri icon


  • Research on affective forecasting shows that people have a robust tendency to overestimate the intensity of future emotion. We hypothesized that (a) people can accurately predict the intensity of their feelings about events and (b) a procedural artifact contributes to people's tendency to overestimate the intensity of their feelings in general. People may misinterpret the forecasting question as asking how they will feel about a focal event, but they are later asked to report their feelings in general without reference to that event. In the current investigation, participants predicted and reported both their feelings in general and their feelings about an election outcome (Study 1) and an exam grade (Study 3). We also assessed how participants interpreted forecasting questions (Studies 2 and 4) and conducted a meta-analysis of affective forecasting research (Study 5). The results showed that participants accurately predicted the intensity of their feelings about events. They overestimated only when asked to predict how they would feel in general and later report their feelings without reference to the focal event. Most participants, however, misinterpreted requests to predict their feelings in general as asking how they would feel when they were thinking about the focal event. Clarifying the meaning of the forecasting question significantly reduced overestimation. These findings reveal that people have more sophisticated self-knowledge than is commonly portrayed in the affective forecasting literature. Overestimation of future emotion is partly due to a procedure in which people predict one thing but are later asked to report another.

published proceedings

  • J Pers Soc Psychol

altmetric score

  • 8.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Levine, L. J., Lench, H. C., Kaplan, R. L., & Safer, M. A.

citation count

  • 53

complete list of authors

  • Levine, Linda J||Lench, Heather C||Kaplan, Robin L||Safer, Martin A

publication date

  • October 2012