Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Counterfactual Thinking

Kahneman and Tversky offered the following scenario to a number of people:

"Mr. Crane and Mr. Tees were scheduled to leave the airport on different flights, at the same time. They traveled from town in the same limousine, were caught in a traffic jam, and arrived at the airport 30 minutes after scheduled departure time of their flights.
Mr. Crane is told that his flight left on time. Mr. Tees is told that his flight was delayed, and just left five minutes ago.
Who is more upset, Mr. Crane or Mr. Tees?"

96% of participants felt that Mr. Tees would be more upset. Just missing the flight would increase the chance of him generating the counterfactual thoughts of having caught it.

Silver medal winners do it all the time. The closeness to winning causes much regret and they need to excuse themselves for their 'failure'. In a reverse effect, Bronze medal winners often feel lucky to get a medal, as they were very close to not getting a medal at all.

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