Consumers Believe They Will Have More Control Over the Future than They Did Over the Past

58 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2011 Last revised: 3 Sep 2017

See all articles by Elanor F. Williams

Elanor F. Williams

University of Florida

Robyn A. LeBoeuf

Washington University in St. Louis

Date Written: August 25, 2017

Abstract

People repeatedly fail to bring about desired outcomes, and yet they also fail to learn from their own and others’ mistakes. One potential cause for this failure to learn is that people believe that they will have more control over the future than they had over the past. Across several real-life and hypothetical scenarios, participants express the belief that, despite the uncertainty inherent in the future, future outcomes will be more under their control than were identical past outcomes. This is true in self-control contexts as well as for more general behaviors and life circumstances. The difference does not arise solely due to a broad sense of optimism, but instead is related to the fact that people generally believe the future to be open and malleable and the past to be fixed and unchangeable—regardless of how much control people will or did exert at the time.

Keywords: consumer behavior, judgment and decision making, control, illusion of control

Suggested Citation

Williams, Elanor F. and LeBoeuf, Robyn A., Consumers Believe They Will Have More Control Over the Future than They Did Over the Past (August 25, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1892484 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1892484

Elanor F. Williams (Contact Author)

University of Florida ( email )

PO Box 117165, 201 Stuzin Hall
Gainesville, FL 32610-0496
United States

Robyn A. LeBoeuf

Washington University in St. Louis ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

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