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Psychol Sci. 2004 Jul;15(7):474-81.

Integrating temporal biases: the interplay of focal thoughts and accessibility experiences.

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Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 27599-3270, USA.


We provide an integrative account of temporal biases (confidence changes, planning fallacy, impact bias, and hindsight bias). Students listed either 3 or 12 thoughts about success or failure before an upcoming real-life exam or immediately after learning their grades. Previous explanations had focused on how thought content alone (what comes to mind) influences temporal biases. We found, however, an interaction between thought content and accessibility experiences (how easily or difficultly thoughts come to mind). Thinking about 3 ways to succeed (success was easy to bring to mind) was equivalent to thinking about 12 ways to fail (failure was difficult to bring to mind), and conversely, thinking about 3 ways to fail was equivalent to thinking about 12 ways to succeed. In no case was thought content alone sufficient to predict the biases. These results have implications for debiasing strategies and other judgments over time.

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