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Dissertation Defence: The Cognitive and Emotional Debiasing of Affective Forecasting Errors in the Substance Use Context
June 23 at 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Maya Pilin, supervised by Dr. Marvin Krank, will defend their dissertation titled “The Cognitive and Emotional Debiasing of Affective Forecasting Errors in the Substance Use Context” in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology.
An abstract for Maya Pilin’s dissertation is included below.
Examinations are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public. Registration is not required for in person defences.
A vast literature within psychology indicates that individuals are poor predictors of their future emotional state. Specifically, studies have demonstrated that individuals inaccurately predict the intensity of their positive affect after a positive event. Such forecasting errors are thought to be caused by a quick yet error-prone cognitive system that is used to make a variety of daily decisions. Decision-making within this cognitive system is subject to cognitive biases, resulting in inaccurate forecasts. The current studies tested whether two cognitive biases, the availability bias and the hot-cold empathy gap, influence forecasting errors. Additionally, these studies examined whether forecasting errors occur within the alcohol use context. Finally, we explored the influence of three moderating variables on such errors. A sample of N = 514 university students were recruited across a set of three studies. Study 1 attempted to induce the availability bias through the use of a writing task and examined whether alcohol use history influenced the bias and the resulting forecasting errors. Studies Two and Three induced a hot-cold empathy gap through the use of a music task and explored the moderating variables of drinking context and personality. In all studies, participants predicted the intensity of emotions that they expected to experience while drinking during a baseline survey. Then, participants reported the intensity of experienced emotions through a series of surveys conducted while participants were consuming alcohol in their natural environment. Across the set of studies, three primary findings emerged. First, High-Intensity Affect (HIA; e.g., fun, happiness) followed a quadratic pattern, such that individuals forecasted greater HIA than they experienced at the beginning of their drinking event. However, their experienced HIA was consistent with their forecast by the end of their drinking experience. Second, neither manipulation successfully induced the cognitive biases examined. Third, three moderating variables were relevant to affective forecasts: HIA forecasts were influenced by past alcohol use history, drinking in a social context, and negative-thinking. These results will be interpreted in the context of the dual-processes theory of cognition. Additionally, theoretical and clinical implications of these findings will be discussed.