The impact bias in affective forecasting—a tendency to overestimate the emotional consequences of future events—may not be a universal phenomenon. This prediction bias stems from a cognitive process known as focalism, whereby predictors focus attention narrowly on the upcoming target event. Three studies supported the hypothesis that East Asians, who tend to think more holistically than Westerners, would be less susceptible to focalism and, consequently, to the impact bias. In Studies 1 and 2, Euro-Canadians exhibited the impact bias for positive future events, whereas East Asians did not. A thought focus measure indicated that the cultural difference in prediction was mediated by the extent to which participants focused on the target event (i.e., focalism). In Study 3, a thought focus manipulation revealed that defocused Euro-Canadians and East Asians made equally moderate affective forecasts.
Lam, K. C., Buehler, R., McFarland, C., Ross, M., & Cheung, I. (2005). Cultural differences in affective forecasting: The role of focalism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31(9), 1296-1309.