Misremembering Our Predictions Blinds Us to Past Forecasting Errors

An ever-deepening academic literature shows our utter inability to predict what will make us happy or sad. Add to that, however, new work which shows that we also don’t remember, ex post, what made us happy or sad — or if we even felt anything at all. It’s such magnificent obliviousness.

People aren’t very accurate at predicting how good or bad they’ll feel after an event — such as watching their team lose the big game or getting a flat-screen TV. But afterwards, they “misremember” what they predicted, revising their prognostications after the fact to match how they actually feel, according to new research.

…Across the studies, participants inaccurately predicted their feelings and wrongly recalled their predictions. Indeed, whether an event had been anticipated or dreaded, peoples’ revised predictions shifted toward how they actually felt. For example, Eagles fans said in advance they’d hate it if the Patriots won but afterward, they shrugged off the loss and said they always knew they’d be OK.

The results reveal a bias toward using current feelings to infer our earlier predictions. People don’t realize they made a mistake, so they don’t learn from that mistake — and keep making the same errors, said the researchers.

More here.

Source: ?Tom Meyvis, Rebecca K. Ratner, Jonathan Levav. Why Don’t We Learn to Accurately Forecast Feelings? How Misremembering Our Predictions Blinds Us to Past Forecasting Errors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2010; 139 (4): 579-589 DOI: 10.1037/a0020285