Monday, November 10, 2008

future anhedonia and time discounting

Kassama et al in a paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology introduce the idea that beliefs about the intensity of future emotional states may underly time discounting. Specifically, underestimating how intensively we will experience future hedonic states may lead us to place less weight on future consequences.

Future anhedonia and time discounting, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Karim S. Kassama, Daniel T. Gilbert, Andrew Boston and Timothy D. Wilson
The temporal location of an event influences the way people mentally represent that event. We suggest (a) that such representational differences can produce an affective forecasting error that we call future anhedonia, which is the belief that hedonic states will be less intense in the future than in the present, and (b) that future anhedonia plays a role in time discounting (i.e., the tendency to place a smaller present value on present events than on future events). Experiments 1a and 1b demonstrated that people are prone to future anhedonia, Experiments 2a and 2b ruled out artifactual alternatives, and Experiments 3a and 3b demonstrated that future anhedonia plays a role in time discounting. These studies suggest that one reason why people prefer to enjoy benefits in the present and pay costs in the future is that they do not realize how they will feel when those costs and benefits are actually experienced.

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