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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2014 Sep;40(5):1419-31. doi: 10.1037/a0037087. Epub 2014 Jun 16.

Yielding to desire: the durability of affective preferences.

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  • 1School of Education and Social Policy.
  • 2Department of Psychology.


People's expectations about the future are guided not just by the contingencies of situations but also by what they hope or wish will happen next. These preferences can inform predictions that run counter to what should or must occur based on the logic of unfolding events. Effects of this type have been regularly identified in studies of judgment and decision making, with individuals' choices often reflecting emotional rather than rational influences. Encouraging individuals to rely less on their emotional considerations has proven a challenge as affective responses are generated quickly and are seemingly informative for decisions. In 6 experiments we examined whether individuals could be encouraged to rely less on their affective preferences when making judgments about future events. Participants read stories in which contexts informed the likelihood of events in ways that might run counter to their preferential investments in particular outcomes. While being less than relevant given the logic of events, participants' affective considerations remained influential despite time allotted for predictive reflection. In contrast, instructional warnings helped attenuate the influence of affective considerations, even under conditions previously shown to encourage preferential biases. The findings are discussed with respect to factors that mediate preference effects, and highlight challenges for overcoming people's reliance on affective contributors to everyday judgments and comprehension.

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