Tag Archives: Seymour Epstein

Reduce “Affective Forecasting” Errors with a Geographic Cure?

People must often make “affective predictions” about choice of life partner, occupation, residence, yet most everyone makes small, but systematic errors in forecasting personal emotional responses.

These misjudgments can negatively affect personal health, happiness, financial well-being, and interpersonal relationships.

Kostadin Kushlev

Kostadin Kushlev

University of British Columbia’s Kostadin Kushlev and Elizabeth Dunn identified these decision biases, and noted that one of the most well-known and widely-occurring affective forecasting errors is impact bias, the tendency to overestimate the intensity of emotional responses to future positive and negative events.

Elizabeth Dunn

Elizabeth Dunn

In addition, Kushlev and Dunn reported that people tend to overestimate the duration of future emotional reactions, labeled durability bias.

Seymour Epstein

Seymour Epstein

Also known as “focalism,” durability bias can occur when people rely on the “rational system” for information processing, according to Seymour Epstein of University of Massachusetts.

His Cognitive-Experiential Self Theory proposes that the “rational system” is used to make affective forecasts, and typically processes information slowly, analytically and abstractly.

Seymour Epstein-CESTIn contrast, the “experiential system” of information processing operates rapidly, associatively, holistically, and concretely.

Shifts between rational (“cold”) and experiential (“hot”) decision systems can cause another bias, “Empathy gap.”

Epstein posits that rational system processing can lead to imagining the event isolated from its broader context that may mitigate its emotional impact.
In this situation, it is easy to focus on distinctive, observable characteristics, and to overvalue these due to their availability rather than their actual future impact.

Relying on the rational system may lead to another error, immune neglect, when people underestimate their likelihood of later reinterpreting future events to reduce negative feelings.

Anna Freud

Anna Freud

Epstein refers to this self-care process as the “psychological immune system” that enables recovery from negatively-tinged emotional events.
This is a more positive reinterpretation of Anna Freud’s focus on defense mechanisms.

Another predictive error, underestimating the power of future affective states can occur when people don’t consider the impact of physical states like hunger and thirst.

Habit-control programs like Alcoholics Anonymous implicitly recognize the tendency to underestimate future emotional states by urging participants to “HALT” while they consider whether problematic urges stem from being “Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired.”

Sometimes forecasting errors are based on inaccurate theories about the determinants of happiness, such as being able to reverse decisions or having more choices.
In addition, people often overlooked the influence of their own dispositions, such as optimism,  in predicting future feelings.
The result of this error, “personality neglect,” can lead to overestimates of future happiness by people who score high on the personality characteristic “neuroticism.”

Roger Buehler

Roger Buehler

Despite people’s imperfect ability to predict future emotions, whether happy or unhappy, people who expect positive emotions in the future report greater present satisfaction, according to Wilfrid Laurier University’s Roger Buehler, Vassili Spyropoulos and Kent C. H. Lam with Cathy McFarland of Simon Fraser University.

Even if fueled by another thinking error, optimism bias, positive anticipation improves the present moment and may play a central role in each individual’s psychological immune system.

Biases and thinking errors in considering future emotional reactions can be minimized by:

  • Defocusing on the anticipated emotional occurrence
  • Considering emotional outcomes in similar previous experiences
  • Anticipating  consequences of other simultaneous future events
  • Previewing the future state with feedback from others
Chip Heath-Dan Heath

Chip Heath-Dan Heath

Similarly Stanford’s Chip Heath and Dan Heath of Duke Corporate Education suggest mitigating decision bias with WRAP:

  • Widen your options
  • Reality-check your options
  • Attain distance before deciding
  • Prepare to be wrong.
Kristin Weger

Kristin Weger

University of Alabama at Huntsville’s Kristin Weger and Sandra Carpenter demonstrated that “guided flexivity” or “structured reflection” can improve performance on simulation game tasks over multiple trials.
They found that volunteers reduced errors in predicting future emotions by evaluating expectations in comparison to actual experience during a “post-mortem” session to review “lessons learned.”

Sandra Carpenter

Sandra Carpenter

Wegner and Carpenter found that guided reflexivity increased individuals’ awareness of their roles as well as others’ expertise and responsibilities in the target situation.

Other strategies to improve performance and decisions require even more commitment, like finding that living in a more “interdependent” culture like Japan for even a year.

This type of “geographic intervention” results in increased people’s consideration of contextual factors in decision making and creativity.

-*Time to book a flight?

-*How accurate are you in predicting your feelings about a specific choice or situation in the future?

-*How do you detect and mitigate bias in predicting your future emotional reactions?

-*What positive and negative impacts have you observed in affective forecasting errors?

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New Questions, “Senses” for Innovative Thinking and Problem-Solving

Tim Hurson

Tim Hurson

Canadian creativity theorist Tim Hurson developed the Productive Thinking Model (“ThinkX”), a structured approach to solving problems or generating creative ideas, outlined in Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking.

It incorporates structured questioning approaches similar to those found in Design Thinking and Innovation laboratories:

  • What’s Going On?” defines the problem’s context and potential solution structure
  • What’s the Itch?” generates an extensive list of perceived problems or opportunities, then distills these into problem clusters, which reveal highest priority issues
  • What’s the Impact?” analyzes the issue and its implications
  • What’s the Information?” provides problem details
  • Who’s Involved?” identifies involved stakeholders
  • What’s the Vision?” and “What’s Success?” specify desired changes in the future state using the mnemonic “DRIVE“:
  1. Do – What must the solution do?
  2. Restrictions – What must the solution not do?
  3. Investment – What resources can be invested?
  4. Values – What values must the solution fulfill?
  5. Essential outcomes – What are other elements specify the required future state?
  • What’s the Question?” defines the problem as a question through brainstorming, clustering and prioritizing
  • What are Answers?” generates possible solutions through the same approach of brainstorming, clustering, and prioritizing
  • What’s the Solution?” develops the suggested solution into a more robust approach using the mnemonic POWER:
  1. Positives – What’s good about the idea?
  2. Objections – What’s sub-optimal about the recommendation?
  3. What else? – What else does the solution suggest?
  4. Enhancements – How can the solution’s benefits be improved?
  5. Remedies – How can the idea’s drawbacks be corrected?
  • How are Resources Aligned?” specified tasks, timelines, milestones, deliverables, issues, mitigations, stakeholders, and project team members who execute plan.
    TED Talk
Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink

Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future outlines required innovation thinking skills to solve problems using approaches like Hurson’s Productive Thinking.

A Whole New MindHe argues that contemporary world economic conditions require six conceptual, subjective, holistic “senses” to transform abundant information into meaningful and actionable implications:

  • Design is more important than function
  • Story eclipses argument
  • Symphony” (collaborative integration) surpasses focus
  • Empathy is more relevant than logic
  • Play trumps seriousness
  • Meaning is valued above accumulation.
Seymour Epstein

Seymour Epstein

Seymour Epstein of University of Massachusetts supports Pink’s argument by positing two thinking styles in Constructive Thinking: The Key to Emotional Intelligence:Constructive Thinking

  • Rational-analytical mind, measured by intelligence tests
  • Intuitive-experiential mind, associated with emotions and more intuitive ways of knowing, and measured by Epstein’s Constructive Thinking Inventory (CTI)

This “bicameral mind” model is similar to earlier notions of “Left-brain, Right-

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

brain”, and Dweck’s Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner

Like Howard Gardner of Harvard’s theory of multiple intelligences in Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Epstein suggests that both “minds” demonstrate unique types of intelligent knowing, and the Intuitive-experiential mind can be developed to support Emotional Intelligence competences of self-awareness and self-regulation.Frames of Mind

These authors and their findings suggest the value of cultivating less analytic and conscious modes of knowing to enhance:

  • Creative problem solving
  • Emotional Intelligence skills: Self-awareness, social insight, self-regulation, managing conflict, collaboration, influence in interpersonal relationships.

-*What skills and techniques help you innovate problem solutions?

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Twitter:   @kathrynwelds
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©Kathryn Welds