The emotional oracle effect

Sona Rai
EurekAlert

Study reveals that individuals who trust their feelings are consistently able to predict future events more accurately than people who do not trust their feelings — a finding called the emotional oracle effect

NEW YORK – February 24, 2012 – A forthcoming article in the Journal of Consumer Research by Professor Michel Tuan Pham, Kravis Professor of Business, Marketing, Columbia Business School; Leonard Lee, Associate Professor, Marketing, Columbia Business School; and Andrew Stephen, PhD ’09, currently Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh, finds that a higher trust in feelings may result in more accurate predictions about a variety of future events. The research will also be featured in Columbia Business School’s Ideas at Work in late February 2012. In the research, the researchers conducted a series of eight studies in which their participants were asked to predict various future outcomes, including the 2008 U.S. Democratic presidential nominee, the box-office success of different movies, the winner of American Idol, movements of the Dow Jones Index, the winner of a college football championship game, and even the weather. Despite the range of events and prediction horizons (in terms of when the future outcome would be determined), the results across all studies consistently revealed that people with higher trust in their feelings were more likely to correctly predict the final outcome than those with lower trust in their feelings. The researchers call this phenomenon the emotional oracle effect.

Across studies, the researchers used two different methods to manipulate or measure how much individuals relied on their feelings to make their predictions. In some studies, the researchers used an increasingly standard trust-in-feelings manipulation originally developed by Tamar Avnet, PhD ’04 and Professor Michel Pham based on earlier findings by Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan and his colleagues. In other studies, the researchers simply measured how much participants typically relied on their feelings in general when making predictions. Regardless of the method used, participants who trusted their feelings in general or were induced to trust their feelings experimentally were more accurate in their predictions compared to participants with lower trust in their in their feelings and participants in a control group.

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