Tested 3 hypotheses concerning people’s predictions of task completion times: (1) people underestimate their own but not others’ completion times, (2) people focus on plan-based scenarios rather than on relevant past experiences while generating their predictions, and (3) people’s attributions diminish the relevance of past experiences. Five studies were conducted with a total of 465 undergraduates. Results support each hypothesis. Ss’ predictions of their completion times were too optimistic for a variety of academic and nonacademic tasks. Think-aloud procedures revealed that Ss focused primarily on future scenarios when predicting their completion times. The optimistic bias was eliminated for Ss instructed to connect relevant past experiences with their predictions. Ss attributed their past prediction failures to external, transient, and specific factors. Observer Ss overestimated others’ completion times and made greater use of relevant past experiences.
Buehler, R., Griffin, D., & Ross, M. (1994). Exploring the “planning fallacy”: Why people underestimate their task completion times. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67(3), 366-381.