Differential Discounting and Present Impact of Past Information

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(1), 74

Posted: 6 Jan 2019

See all articles by Laura Brandimarte

Laura Brandimarte

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Joachim Vosgerau

Bocconi University

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: 2018

Abstract

How does information about a person’s past, accessed now, affect individuals’ impressions of that person? In 2 survey experiments and 2 experiments with actual incentives, we compare whether, when evaluating a person, information about that person’s past greedy or immoral behaviors is discounted similarly to information about her past generous or moral behaviors. We find that, no matter how far in the past a person behaved greedily or immorally, information about her negative behaviors is hardly discounted at all. In contrast, information about her past positive behaviors is discounted heavily: recent behaviors are much more influential than behaviors that occurred a long time ago. The lesser discounting of information about immoral and greedy behaviors is not caused by these behaviors being more influential, memorable, extreme, or attention-grabbing; rather, they are perceived as more diagnostic of a person’s character than past moral or generous behaviors. The phenomenon of differential discounting of past information has particular relevance in the digital age, where information about people’s past is easily retrieved. Our findings have significant implications for theories of impression formation and social information processing.

Keywords: Differential Discounting, Past Information

Suggested Citation

Brandimarte, Laura and Vosgerau, Joachim and Acquisti, Alessandro, Differential Discounting and Present Impact of Past Information (2018). Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(1), 74. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3305254

Laura Brandimarte

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Joachim Vosgerau

Bocconi University ( email )

Via Sarfatti, 25
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

Alessandro Acquisti (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-9853 (Phone)
412-268-5339 (Fax)

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