Year: 2013 Source: Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.(2013).32(4):446-463. SIEC No: 20130260

When people predict how they will feel in response to future events, they typically overestimate the intensity of both negative and positive affect. These affective forecasting errors influence decision making in the present, but the possibility that they serve an adaptive function has been largely overlooked, as has their potential role in psychopathology. In 2 studies, we examined whether the forecasting error for positive events may serve a self-regulatory function by protecting the individual against maladaptive escape behavior in the face of distress. Blunted affective forecasts for future positive events were associated with greater appeal of escape fantasies but not general fantasies (Study 1), and distinguished suicide attemptersÕ view of the future from that of both healthy controls and individuals matched in depressive symptoms but lacking a history of a suicide attempt (Study 2). Overestimation of future positive affect in healthy individuals may play a role in adaptive cognitive and affective processes promoting perseverance over escape. Interventions with individuals at risk for escape behavior, including suicide, may benefit from increased attention to affective forecasting processes, emotioncognition interactions, and their relationships with self-defeating behavior.

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