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Reducing the impact bias in judgments of post-decisional affect: Distraction or task interference?


  • Nick Sevdalis
  • Nigel Harvey


People overestimate their affective reactions to future events and decisions --- a phenomenon that has been termed ``impact bias.'' Evidence suggests that completing a diary detailing events contemporaneous with the focal one de-biases judgments of affect. It is generally assumed that this is because diary completion helps people to realize that they will be distracted from the focal event. However, there is another possibility: de-biasing may occur because diary completion interferes with the processing responsible for the bias. In a first experiment, we showed that diary completion also lowers affect associated with past decisions. In a second experiment, we showed that solving anagrams has the same effect. A third experiment demonstrates that this is not because affect judgments are influenced by mood changes brought about by solving anagrams. Indeed, monitoring moods lowered affect in the same way as diary completion. It appears that cognitive tasks of any sort interfere with the processing required by judgments of affect.

Suggested Citation

  • Nick Sevdalis & Nigel Harvey, 2009. "Reducing the impact bias in judgments of post-decisional affect: Distraction or task interference?," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(4), pages 287-296, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:4:y:2009:i:4:p:287-296

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    Cited by:

    1. Comerford, David A., 2011. "Attenuating focalism in affective forecasts of the commuting experience: Implications for economic decisions and policy making," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 691-699.

    More about this item


    affect; regret; focalism; impact bias; task switching.;


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