Real versus imagined harassment
An estimated 80% of sexual harassment cases consist of blaming the victim, based on beliefs that they failed to respond to the harassment in a “correct” way.16 However, research shows a discrepancy between imagined and actual reactions to harassment. To investigate the role of affective forecasting in victim blaming, Woodzicka and LaFrance asked female participants to read a written scenario describing a job interview where they were asked questions like: Do you have a boyfriend? Do you think it is important for women to wear bras to work? As predicted, most respondents predicted they would confront the harasser and that they would most intensely feel anger, followed by fear.
While most women accurately predicted which emotions they would feel when asked a sexually inappropriate question, predictions regarding the intensity of said emotions were inaccurate.16 Woodzicka and LaFrance devised a job interview in which a male interviewer asked female applicants sexually harassing questions like the ones above, interspersed with more typical interview questions. While women still reported feeling anger and fear, it was fear that was most intensely experienced. Additionally, few women confronted the interviewer.
The study’s results highlight harassment victims’ actual reactions, and the role that affective forecasting plays in victim blaming.16 While people may predict how they would feel and act in a certain situation, their actual reactions may differ. Failure to understand the influence of affective forecasting and these discrepancies impede effective education on harassment and negatively impact targets of harassment, as they may also blame themselves for their lack of action. Continued research on emotional and physical reactions to harassment is important for developing programs and procedures to alleviate the stigma associated with being a target of harassment.
Travelling during a pandemic
People often base travel decisions on predictions: whether they think they will prefer lounging on the beach or exploring a historic site, and which location they think will best serve their interests.17 Thus, affective forecasting is an important part of travel decision making. Existing literature focuses on the mechanisms by which people make predictions about future travel, such as mentally pre-experiencing a holiday. Researchers have also considered the roles of emotions in that process, such that tourists will attribute a specific emotion to a specific destination. However, we know that affective forecasting can be erroneous, so what happens in the context of travelling during a pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in travel restrictions and important considerations of risk.17 A group of European researchers wanted to know whether affective forecasting would lower tourists’ perceived risk of travelling during the pandemic, and thus influence future travel decisions. They considered the role of episodic future thinking, which is the projection of oneself into the future to pre-experience an event. The researchers purposely sampled from the United States, as it was the country most affected by COVID-19 (in terms of deaths and cases) during May 2020, the time of data collection.
The researchers assigned 291 participants to one of two conditions: (1) affective forecasting, where participants engaged in episodic future thinking and imagined a future holiday; and (2) the control, where there was no simulated affective forecasting.17 After this initial simulation, participants reported their perceived travel coronavirus-infection risk, willingness to travel after restrictions were lifted, and how soon they would travel.
The researchers found that those who engaged in affective forecasting perceived lower levels of travel-related infection risk, increased willingness to travel, and increased willingness to wait for travel, compared to the control group.17 Since there was greater promise of exciting adventures to come, this made the wait easier, as participants believed that it was worth something great. The study’s results highlight the role that affective forecasting can play in altering tourists’ attitudes, which are unlikely limited to the context of a pandemic. Of course, this was an important context to consider given present reality.