Correcting Memory Improves Accuracy of Predicted Task Duration

Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 266-275, 2008

10 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2012

See all articles by Michael M. Roy

Michael M. Roy

Elizabethtown College - Department of Psychology

Scott Tanner Mitten

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Nicholas Christenfeld

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: January 4, 2012

Abstract

People are often inaccurate in predicting task duration. The memory bias explanation holds that this error is due to people having incorrect memories of how long previous tasks have taken, and these biased memories cause biased predictions. Therefore, the authors examined the effect on increasing predictive accuracy of correcting memory through supplying feedback for actual task duration. For Experiments 1 (paper-counting task) and 2 (essay-writing task), college students were supplied with duration information about their previous performance on a similar task before predicting task duration. For Experiment 3, participants were recruited at various locations, such as fast food restaurants and video arcades, and supplied with average task duration for others before predicting how long the task would take. In all 3 experiments, supplying feedback increased predictive accuracy. Overall, results indicate that, when predicting duration, people do well when they rely not on memory of past task duration but instead on measures of actual duration, whether their own or that of others.

Keywords: memory bias, planning fallacy, time, prediction, feedback

Suggested Citation

Roy, Michael M. and Mitten, Scott Tanner and Christenfeld, Nicholas, Correcting Memory Improves Accuracy of Predicted Task Duration (January 4, 2012). Journal of Experimental Psychology, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp. 266-275, 2008 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1979453

Michael M. Roy (Contact Author)

Elizabethtown College - Department of Psychology ( email )

One Alpha Drive
Elizabethtown, PA 17022
United States

Scott Tanner Mitten

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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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