In a series of studies, Elizabeth Cowley (University of Sydney) examines repeat gambling in the face of loss. She finds that people often engage in too much positive thinking, selectively focusing on one win among hundreds of losses when they think back on the overall experience.
“When we want to justify engaging in an activity which could potentially be irresponsible – like gambling – we may need to distort our memory of the past to rationalize the decision,” Cowley explains. “People who have frequently spent more money than planned on gambling edit their memories of the past in order to justify gambling again.”
For example, Cowley had participants in one study play a computer game in which they could win credits with the financial equivalent of one cent per credit. Each participant played the game 300 times. Everyone experienced one big win and one big loss. But for the other 298 games, one half of the group experienced all small losses, while the other experienced all small wins.
Cowley also manipulated the distance between the big win and the big loss.
A week later, participants were surveyed for their memories of the experience. Surprisingly, Cowley found that even some losers remembered having a positive experience. If the big win and the big loss occurred far apart, losers had fond memories and indicated a willingness to spend their own money on the game.
As Cowley explains, the further apart the big win and the big loss, the easier it was for losers to isolate their memories and focus only on the positive, a “silver lining” effect.
“The tendency to segregate positive and negative events in a mixed-loss experience is based on the logic that remembering a large gain allows people to feel good even when the objective outcome was negative,” Cowley says.
Conversely, Cowley found that winners – those who experienced 298 small wins – were happier when the big win and the big loss were closer together, allowing them to lump all the games together and ignore the big loss. She termed this the “cancellation effect.”
“When the outcome of an experience including both positive and negative events results in a net gain, people look for ways to integrate positive and negative events to reduce, if not cancel, the pain associated with the negative events,” Cowley explains.
The research is the first to consider a motivated memory explanation for justifying irresponsible behavior. Apparently, positive thinking can sometimes be negative.
Elizabeth Cowley, “The Perils of Hedonic Editing.” Journal of Consumer Research: June 2008.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
A sudden drop in outdoor temperature increases the risk of respiratory infections
11.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy