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Immune Neglect
is the tendency to overlook the important value of coping processes (our psychological 'immune' system), leading people to overestimate the intensity and duration of distress experienced in response to negative events. This bias disrupts affective forecasting, which leads people to make faulty decisions. For example, if someone underestimates their capacity to manage the anxiety of public speaking, they may avoid doing so. Many instances of avoidance could be traced to immune neglect. Immune neglect may also increase the emotional burden on an immediate crisis (e.g., romantic breakup, cancer diagnosis, job loss), sometimes with serious consequences (e.g, suicide).

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Recent Articles on Immune Neglect

Hoerger, M. (2012). Coping strategies and immune neglect in affective forecasting: Direct evidence and key moderators. Judgment and Decision Making, 7, 86-96. |PDF|

Immune neglect was present not only for those experiencing a negative event but also for those experiencing a positive event, suggesting that the bias may be more robust than originally theorized. Immune neglect was greater for immediate emotional reactions than more enduring reactions. Further, immune neglect was conspicuously absent from recollected emotional reactions. Implications for decision-support interventions are discussed.

Hoerger, M., Quirk, S. W., Lucas, R. E., & Carr, T. H. (2010). Cognitive determinants of affective forecasting errors. Judgment and Decision Making, 5, 365-373. |PDF|

The cognitive processes underlying the impact bias, and methods for correcting it, have been debated and warrant further exploration.... Fndings have theoretical implications for understanding the impact bias, highlight the importance of individual differences in affective forecasting, and have ramifcations for future decision making research. The possible functional role of the impact bias is discussed within the context of evolutionary psychology.

Hoerger, M., Quirk, S. W., Lucas, R. E., & Carr, T. H. (2009). Immune neglect in affective forecasting. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 91-94. |PDF|

People fail to consider how coping resources will ameliorate negative affect, a phenomenon termed immune neglect.... Those reporting greater use of emotional processing coping strategies recovered more effectively from losses, but failed to foresee this when making predictions, leading to immune neglect.... This is the first study to document individual differences in immune neglect. Results support the generalizability of biased predictions and contribute to the understanding of affective forecasting and coping.

Halpern, J., & Arnold, R. M. (2008). Affective forecasting: An unrecognized challenge in making serious health decisions. Journal of general internal medicine, 23, 1708-1712. |PDF|

We describe three specific mechanisms for affective forecasting errors that may influence health decisions.... We describe how caregivers can recognize these biases in the clinical setting and suggest interventions to help patients recognize and address affective forecasting errors.

Gilbert, D. T., Lieberman, M. D., Morewedge, C. K., & Wilson, T. D. (2004). The peculiar longevity of things not so bad. Psychological Science, 15, 14-19. |PDF|

Intense hedonic states trigger psychological processes that are designed to attenuate them, and thus intense states may abate more quickly than mild states. Because people are unaware of these psychological processes, they may mistakenly expect intense states to last longer than mild ones.


Core Readings on Immune Neglect

Gilbert, D. T., Pinel, E. C., Wilson, T. D., Blumberg, S. J., & Wheatley, T. (1998). Immune neglect: A source of durability bias in affective forecasting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 617-638. |PDF|

People are generally unaware of the operation of the system of cognitive mechanisms that ameliorate their experience of negative affect (the psychological immune system), and thus they tend to overestimate the duration of their affective reactions to negative events.... The present experiments suggest that people neglect the psychological immune system when making affective forecasts.