|Mispredicting Personal Behavior in Embarrassing Situations|
|Living - Relationships|
|TS-Si News Service|
|Thursday, 19 January 2012 03:00|
Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Researchers say the illusion of courage is to plan for risks but then turn away when the moment of truth arrives, an example of an "empathy gap"— an inability to imagine how we will behave in future emotional situations.
According to the empathy gap theory, when the moment of truth is far off you aren't feeling, and therefore are out of touch with, the fear you are likely to experience when push comes to shove.
In a new paper that appears in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) explored a principles that apply to such risky tasks as bungee jumping, stock investing, or public speaking. The research team included David Dunning of Cornell University and Ned Welch, a former graduate student at CMU and currently a consultant for McKinsey.
In a series of three experiments, the researchers found that people overestimate their willingness to engage in psychologically distant embarrassing public performances, and also found that they could reduce this illusion of courage by inducing immediate emotions that effectively put them in touch with the fear they would experience.
In the first two experiments, college students were asked if they would be willing to engage in a future embarrassing situation telling a funny story to their class in one study, and dancing to James Brown's Sex Machine in front of the class in the other in exchange for a few dollars. Students were either asked outright or after being exposed to short films that aroused mild experiences of fear and anger.
Students who did not view movie clips significantly overestimated their willingness to sing or dance. When they experienced negative emotions fear and anger as a result of watching the movie clips, students were much more accurate in predicting their own future lack of interest in performing.
"Because social anxiety associated with the prospect of facing an embarrassing situation is such a common and powerful emotion in everyday life, we might think that we know ourselves well enough to predict our own behavior in such situations," said Leaf Van Boven, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder.
"But the ample experience most of us should have gained with predicting our own future behavior isn't sufficient to overcome the empathy gap our inability to anticipate the impact of emotional states we aren't currently experiencing."
The illusion of courage has practical consequences. "People frequently face potential embarrassing situations in everyday life, and the illusion of courage is likely to cause us to expose ourselves to risks that, when the moment of truth arrives, we wish we hadn't taken," said George Loewenstein, a Professor of Economics and Psychology at CMU.
"Knowing that, we might choose to be more cautious, or we might use the illusion of courage to help us take risks we think are worth it, knowing full well that we are likely to regret the decision when the moment of truth arrives."
FundingThe National Science Foundation (NSF), the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU)'s Center for Integrated Study of the Human Dimensions of Global Change and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), provided funding for this research.
CitationThe illusion of courage in self-predictions: Mispredicting one's own behavior in embarrassing situations. Leaf Van Boven, George Loewenstein, Edward Welch, David Dunning. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 2012; 25(1): 1-12. doi:10.1002/bdm.706
People exhibit an “illusion of courage” when predicting their own behavior in embarrassing situations. In three experiments, participants overestimated their own willingness to engage in embarrassing public performances in exchange for money when those performances were psychologically distant: Hypothetical or in the relatively distant future. This illusion of courage occurs partly because of cold/hot empathy gaps. That is, people in a relatively “cold” unemotional state underestimate the influence on their own preferences and behaviors of being in a relative “hot” emotional state such as social anxiety evoked by an embarrassing situation. Consistent with this cold/hot empathy gap explanation, putting people “in touch” with negative emotional states by arousing fear (Experiments 1 and 2) and anger (Experiment 2) decreased people's willingness to engage in psychologically distant embarrassing public performances. Conversely, putting people “out of touch” with social anxiety through aerobic exercise, which reduces state anxiety and increases confidence, increased people's willingness to engage in psychologically distance embarrassing public performances (Experiment 3). Implications for self-predictions, self-evaluation, and affective forecasting are discussed.
Keywords: affective forecasting, decision making, choice, embarrassment, empathy gaps, emotion, intuition, judgment, prediction.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 06:43|