Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

People Are Consistently Overly Optimistic When Asked To Predict Their Own Future Behavior

Date:
March 5, 2009
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
The next time a contractor tells you the kitchen remodeling will be done in six weeks, you might ask him to get real and reconsider his estimate.

The next time a contractor tells you the kitchen remodeling will be done in six weeks, you might ask him to get real and reconsider his estimate.

People often fail to remember that the world is not ideal when they predict when they will complete a project, how frequently they will exercise, or how much money they will save. However, a subtle reminder of the difference between ideal and realistic predictions can yield a more accurate estimate, according to new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and the Wisconsin School of Business.

In a series of experiments, Duke Marketing Professor Kurt Carlson and Professor Robin J. Tanner of Wisconsin found that people were consistently overly optimistic when asked to predict their own future behavior.

In the case of exercise, study subjects reported that they planned to exercise, on average, 4.48 times during a two-week period. But two weeks later, they reported having actually exercised an average of only 3.38 times.

Carlson and Tanner found that unrealistic expectations could be overcome by asking people to make two sets of predictions: when they would complete a task "in an ideal world," followed by a straightforward prediction of when they might actually complete the task. Participants who answered both questions reported inflated intentions in the ideal-world scenario, but significantly more realistic predictions in response to the second question.

"By asking people how they would perform in an ideal world, and following up by asking how they would perform without reference to the ideal world, we get people to think about the factors that can impede their performance," Tanner said. "It's a way of helping people heed the many factors that can keep them from behaving as they would like to."

"We've known for a long time that people underestimate how long it will take to complete a project -- look at the Big Dig in Boston. What we have not known is how to fix the problem," Carlson said. "Now we do."

More accurate predictions "depend on getting people to differentiate between the ideal and the real, which can be done by directing them to give a completion date in an ideal world before asking them for the actual completion date."

Additionally, the ideal-real technique can help consumers make wiser purchasing decisions. "If you can acknowledge to yourself that you will not actually use the home gym equipment as often as you would in an ideal world, you might find a less expensive and more realistic means to stay fit," Tanner said.

The research, which was published in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, was conducted while Tanner was a Ph.D. student at Duke.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "People Are Consistently Overly Optimistic When Asked To Predict Their Own Future Behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226110705.htm>.
Duke University. (2009, March 5). People Are Consistently Overly Optimistic When Asked To Predict Their Own Future Behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226110705.htm
Duke University. "People Are Consistently Overly Optimistic When Asked To Predict Their Own Future Behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090226110705.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins