Future Seems to Be Viewed More Harshly Than
WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to
feelings, new research suggests that the past is not always
prologue. People tend to have worse and more intense views on
events that might happen down the road than identical events that
have already taken place.
The observation touches upon perceptions of fairness, morality
and punishment, the study noted, as people apparently take more
extreme positions regarding events that have yet to occur.
Thinking about future events simply tends to stir up more
emotions than events in the past, study author Eugene Caruso, an
assistant professor of behavioral science with the University of
Chicago's Booth School of Business, explained in a university news
The findings were published in a recent online issue of the
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Caruso's conclusions are drawn from several experiments
conducted to assess feelings regarding past and future
In one instance, study participants expressed their feelings
regarding a soft drink vending machine designed to hike up prices
as temperatures rise. People had stronger negative reactions about
the fairness of the notion when told that the machine would soon be
tested than they did when told that the dispenser had already been
put in place a month prior, according to the report.
Similarly, participants were asked to render verdicts on the
behavior of two late-night TV hosts coping with a writer's strike.
Reactions to the notion that both would cross the picket line to go
back on the air without writers were much harsher when the scenario
was discussed as a future development as opposed to something that
had already occurred. Overall, those who were told this would
happen before it happened were more likely to say they would watch
the respective shows less often.
In fact, the past-future dynamic seems to similarly apply to
positive developments, as another experiment revealed that large
charitable donations yet to happen were deemed to be more generous
than the same donation already signed, sealed and delivered.
Caruso theorized that underlying this divergence of opinion is a
tendency to prepare for the future armed with heightened emotions.
By contrast, people look back on history with a more rational take
that intuitively seeks to make sense out of what had been emotional
experiences, the findings indicate.
Hence the past becomes "ordinary"; the future extraordinary.
For more on conflict and perception, visit the
University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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