Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Science
The "impact bias" in affective forecasting - a tendency to overestimate the emotional consequences of a particular future event - might not be a universal phenomenon. This prediction bias occurs in part because of a cognitive process known as focalism, whereby predictors focus attention narrowly on the target event and neglect other mitigating events and circumstances. It was hypothesized that East Asians, because of their holistic tendencies, would be less susceptible to focalism and consequently to the impact bias. These hypotheses were partially supported. In Study 1, participants predicted on a cold day how happy they would be when outdoor temperatures first reached 20 degrees Celsius. When this warmer weather arrived, a comparable sample of participants reported their happiness. In Study 2, participants nominated an upcoming positive event and predicted how happy they would be two weeks later if it occurred. Two weeks later, the same participants reported their actual happiness levels. In both studies, Euro-Canadians exhibited the impact bias, predicting significantly more happiness than they experienced, but Asians did not. The Euro-Canadians predicted greater happiness than Asians, whereas actual happiness levels did not differ across cultures. In addition, a measure of cognitive process revealed that the cultural difference in prediction was mediated by the degree to which participants focused on the target event itself. These results suggest that East Asians are less prone than Westerners to the impact bias, because they focus less on the target event while generating affective forecasts. Although scores on several holism measures were not predictive of focalism or affective forecasts, the results of both studies supported the hypothesized patterns of predicted and experienced happiness as well as confirmed the expected role of focalism.
Lam, Kent C.H., "Cultural differences in holism, focalism and affective forecasting" (2004). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 754.