Bias in Memory Predicts Bias in Estimation of Future Task Duration

Memory and Cognition, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 557-564, 2007

8 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2012

See all articles by Michael M. Roy

Michael M. Roy

Elizabethtown College - Department of Psychology

Nicholas Christenfeld

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: January 4, 2012

Abstract

Both anecdotal accounts and experimental evidence suggest that people underestimate how long it will take them to complete future tasks. A possible reason for this tendency is that people remember tasks as taking less time than they actually did, with these biased memories causing a corresponding bias in prediction. Two experi- ments were performed to determine whether or not a systematic bias in memory could explain a similar system- atic bias in prediction. In support, it was found that (1) the tendency to underestimate future duration disappears when the task is novel, (2) there is similar bias in estimation of both past and future durations, and (3) variables that affect memory of duration, such as level of experience with the task and duration of delay before estimation, affect prediction of duration in the same way. It appears that, at least in part, people underestimate future event duration because they underestimate past event duration.

Keywords: memory, bias, planning fallacy, time

Suggested Citation

Roy, Michael M. and Christenfeld, Nicholas, Bias in Memory Predicts Bias in Estimation of Future Task Duration (January 4, 2012). Memory and Cognition, Vol. 35, No. 2, pp. 557-564, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1979445

Michael M. Roy (Contact Author)

Elizabethtown College - Department of Psychology ( email )

One Alpha Drive
Elizabethtown, PA 17022
United States

Nicholas Christenfeld

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

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