Reading Fictional Stories and Winning Delayed Prizes: The Surprising Emotional Impact of Distant Events

16 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2010 Last revised: 11 Nov 2014

Jane Ebert

Brandeis University - International Business School

Tom Meyvis

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

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. The current research shows that, while consumers’ intuitions are in line with this prediction, their actual emotional experiences are 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, game participants overestimated how much their excitement about winning a prize would be dampened by knowing that the prize would only be available later. We propose that actual readers and prize winners were too absorbed by the hedonic experience to incorporate the distancing information, resulting in surprisingly strong affective reactions to fictional stories and delayed prizes.

Keywords: forecasting, affect, psychological distance, fiction

JEL Classification: M30

Suggested Citation

Ebert, Jane and Meyvis, Tom, Reading Fictional Stories and Winning Delayed Prizes: The Surprising Emotional Impact of Distant Events (2014). Journal of Consumer Research, 41 (October), 794-809.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1654673 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1654673

Jane Ebert (Contact Author)

Brandeis University - International Business School ( email )

Mailstop 32
Waltham, MA 02454-9110
United States

Tom Meyvis

New York University (NYU) - Department of Marketing ( email )

Henry Kaufman Ctr
44 W 4 St.
New York, NY
United States

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