Experiences extended across time: Evaluation of moments and episodes

Authors

  • Carol Varey,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of California at Berkeley, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, Canada. This article was completed while she was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley
    • Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G1
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  • Daniel Kahneman

    Corresponding author
    1. University of California at Berkeley, USA
    Current affiliation:
    1. Daniel Kahneman is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley
    • Department of Psychology, Tolman Hall, University of California at Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
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Abstract

Intuitions relating to outcomes extended over time are examined. Utility integration is proposed as a normative rule for the evaluation of extended episodes. In Experiment 1, subjects explicitly compared aversive experiences of varying durations. By several measures, disutility was a marginally decreasing function of episode duration, even for experiences that were thought to become increasingly aversive. This pattern is a qualitative violation of the integration rule. In Experiment 2, subjects made global evaluations of a hypothetical person's aversive experiences, on the basis of a series of subjective ratings of discomfort made at periodic intervals. The results showed an extreme sensitivity to improving or deteriorating trend and a striking neglect of duration. The final moments of an extended episode appear to exert a strong influence on the overall judgment. This leads to violations of monotonicity when adding some moments of moderate pain reduces judgments of global aversiveness.

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