Attenuating focalism in affective forecasts of the commuting experience: Implications for economic decisions and policy making
Focalism is a cognitive bias that overweights the contribution of certain attributes to the consumption experience. This paper proposes that focalism afflicts choice of transport mode for commuting. A field study and two experiments provide evidence that commuting by bus is estimated to be less enjoyable than it is experienced to be and that driving to work is estimated to be more enjoyable than it is experienced to be. To the extent that commuting behavior is informed by subjective expected utility, commuters will inflict unanticipated costs on themselves and on society. Transport mode choice has external and dynamic consequences. Focalism in this domain implies welfare distortions that are worthy of policymakers’ attention. This paper develops a novel debiasing technique, Affective Averaging, that reveals and attenuates focalism in affective forecasts of commuting.
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