Why we tend to mispredict behaviors based on our emotional state.


Empathy Gap

, explained.

What is Empathy Gap?

The empathy gap, or hot-cold empathy gap, is the tendency to underestimate the influence of our emotional state on our decisions and behaviors, and overestimate the intellectual influence on decision-making.


The “hot” and “cold” analogy illustrates the duality that resides in ourselves. The “cold” is the rational part of ourselves and the “hot” is the emotional part of ourselves. The bias leads us to incorrectly predict our behaviors when we are in the other state. In the hot state, we don’t understand how much we are affected by our emotional state. Conversely, in the cold state, we don’t realize how much our decisions would change were we in an emotional state. This can cause us to make poor decisions in the hot state, and not make accurate predictions about future behavior in the cold state.


We tend to set New Year’s Resolution in a “cold” state. For example, if your goal was to stop eating fast food, that would seem very possible in your living room on New Year’s. It might be more difficult to resist to the temptation when you pass McDonalds while hungry. In this example, looking for a place to eat and being hungry puts you in a “warmer” state, and your decisions making in this state is more biased than you predicted in the “cold” state.