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
Date Written: 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. 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: Suggested Citation