Oh yes, that’s a real thing even if YOUR browser thinks “affective” is not a word and shames it with a red squiggly. Affective forecasting is the act of predicting an emotional reaction to some hypothetical future event. We use it frequently. Have you ever filled out a survey that asked you how likely you would be to refer a friend to some company? That’s affective forecasting.
Affective forecasting has great uses, but it has serious drawbacks. In my research on the Consumer’s Attitudes Toward Breaches, we learned that nearly every survey related to the study of breached merchants was flawed. In fact, when you ask someone how they will react to a hypothetical event, societal norms will kick in that could cause them to give a false answer. Here’s a real-world example that happened over the weekend.
My niece is now in high school—which is terrifying enough it its own right—and the peer pressure is mounting. Her mother was talking about a real-world scenario in which someone in an authoritative position would request her to do something like ride in a parent’s personal vehicle for a school sponsored event. Now, with the manner in which she asked, of course my niece would respond with “no.” But would she actually get in that vehicle when the situation goes from hypothetical to real? We’ll have to wait and see.
Ultimately, I speculate that external pressures and the fact that someone is observing the answer will cause someone to answer the way that they think they are supposed to, as opposed to accurately forecast their behavior. It’s important for researchers (academics or practitioners) to realize that they may be introducing bias when affective forecasting is used in the response.