Marketing; Management

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Optimism, forecasting, psychology


Participants made predictions about performance on tasks that they did or did not expect to complete. In three experiments, participants in task-unexpected conditions were unrealistically optimistic: They overestimated how well they would perform, often by a large margin, and their predictions were not correlated with their performance. By contrast, participants assigned to task-expected conditions made predictions that were not only less optimistic but strikingly accurate. Consistent with predictions from construal level theory, data from a fourth experiment suggest that it is the uncertainty associated with hypothetical tasks, and not a lack of cognitive processing, that frees people to make optimistic prediction errors. Unrealistic optimism, when it occurs, may be truly unrealistic; however, it may be less ubiquitous than has been previously suggested.

Published in

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Citation/Other Information

Armor, D., and A. M. Sackett (2006). Accuracy, error, and bias in predictions for real versus hypothetical events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 583-600.