Distinction Bias

Study Proposal #5: Distinction Bias (Hsee & Zhang) (C) | 16OCT13


Distinction bias identifies the disconnect between people’s predictions for how they will feel in an experience versus how they actually feel in that experience. I claim that being primed with the awareness of this bias so the simulation of Single Evaluation more regularly occurs Joint Evaluation will lead to the JE curve being more aligned with SE. Awareness of this effect could lead people to overcompensate for the distinction bias, and we could see the JE curve dip below the SE curve in some cases. Awareness of this bias could lead to systematic underprediction in both qualitative and quantitative predictions due to a desire to reverse the effect.


A 2×2 experimental matrix with testing on a random population sample will be sufficient. The experiment will follow the same structure as study #2 (words) in the Hsee & Zhang experiment on distinction bias.

The only difference in the experiment is that there will be two JE-predicted experience conditions. One will be the same as the original experiment, the other will be primed with a quick lesson on the difference between JE and SE prediction and the occurrence of distinction bias. They will be told that typically JE-predictors will overpredict the difference between JE and SE, and that they should try to carefully simulate the SE conditions in their minds for the responses.

participants choices & hypothesis Quantitative Qualitative
JE-Predictors Primed Underpredict Underpredict
JE-Predictors – Unprimed Overpredict aligned


    If the JE curve in decision making can be manipulated to align more closely or below the SE curve, then this study will find that priming about the occurrence of a distinction bias will lead to underprediction both in the qualitative and quantitative differences in the experience of reading words.


These results would suggest that an awareness in individuals of the distinction bias would not necessarily lead to an outcome of more optimal choices. It would mainly raise questions about what the potential unintended consequences would be if people are encouraged to integrate their two modes of predictive thinking. It may not lead to an optimal set of choices, and could create other problems of choice. These could only be speculated on with the results of this experiment.

question, agree or disagree

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