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Expectations Roundup

September 14, 2007

When we expect the worst, we don’t always feel as bad as we think we will.


Is breaking up no big deal? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

They say that breaking up is hard to do; now we know it may not be true. In a study in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, volunteers predicted that breaking up with their partner would cause them extreme pain. But those that did break up during the course of the study reported far less despair after the breakup than they predicted. And the more in love they’d been, the bigger the difference in the pain they predicted they’d feel and the heartbreak they actually experienced.

A study appearing in the journal Psychological Science had similar results. Volunteers who made bad decisions and experienced negative results never felt as bad as they predicted they’d feel; those that had pleasant outcomes didn’t feel as much joy as they expected. So whether we break up, screw up, or hit the jackpot, the feelings may not be as intense as we think they’ll be.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.