Reading Fictional Stories and Winning Delayed Prizes: The Surprising Emotional Impact of Distant Events
Brandeis University - International Business School
New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing
January 20, 2014
Hedonic experiences that involve real, immediate events (such as reading about a recent, real-life tragic event) naturally evoke strong affective reactions. When these events are instead fictional or removed in time, they should be perceived as more psychologically distant and evoke weaker affective reactions. We show that, while consumers’ intuitions are in line with this prediction, their actual emotional experiences are often surprisingly insensitive to the distancing information. For instance, readers of a sad story overestimated how much their emotional reaction would be reduced by knowing that it described a fictional event. Similarly, winners of a prize overestimated how much their excitement would be dampened by knowing that the prize would only be available later. We propose that consumers overestimate the impact of the distancing information because they fail to appreciate the absorbing power of the hedonic experience. In support of this mechanism, we find that the emotional reactions of prize winners and movie watchers are indeed subdued by the delayed availability of the prize and the fictional nature of the movie, but only when consumers are not fully absorbed by the hedonic experience.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: forecasting, affect, psychological distance, fiction
JEL Classification: M30working papers series
Date posted: August 9, 2010 ; Last revised: January 20, 2014
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