Cultural differences in affective forecasting: The role of focalism

Kent G.H. Lam, Roger Buehler, Cathy McFarland, Michael Ross, Irene Cheung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


The impact bias in affective forecasting - a tendency to overestimate the emotional consequences of future events - may not be a universal phenomenon. This prediction bias stems from a cognitive process known as focalism, whereby predictors focus attention narrowly on the upcoming target event. Three studies supported the hypothesis that East Asians, who tend to think more holistically than Westerners, would be less susceptible to focalism and, consequently, to the impact bias. In Studies 1 and 2, EuroCanadians exhibited the impact bias for positive future events, whereas East Asians did not. A thought focus measure indicated that the cultural difference in prediction was mediated by the extent to which participants focused on the target event (i.e., focalism). In Study 3, a thought focus manipulation revealed that defocused Euro-Canadians and East Asians made equally moderate affective forecasts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1296-1309
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


  • Affective forecasting
  • Culture
  • Focalism
  • Holistic thought
  • Impact bias


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