Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Are We There Yet?

Whenever my students are given a task I put a timer on the overhead. That way there is no discrepancy over how long they have been working (or not working). But I've always wondered if I'm making the experience worse or better from their point of view:
"Rather than weakening affective episodes over time, duration knowledge actually intensifies them, rendering a positive experience more pleasurable and a negative experience more aversive," the authors explain.
The authors conducted a field study in a Taiwanese "cram school," an after-school program designed to help middle school students meet academic goals. They told half the students that the session would last 60 minutes and told the other half that the session would be similar to after-hours sessions they had attended in the past (which vary from 30-90 minutes). "The results show that whereas students predicted that duration knowledge would improve their negative experience, in fact it rendered the experience worse."

The authors also conducted a lab experiment where participants listened to 30-second song clips sung either by a pop star or one of the researchers "who sings abominably." They found that people who knew the duration of the experience had more intense reactions in both directions.
Or maybe not:
In subsequent experiments the authors found that counting down during a positive experience weakens the enjoyment of participants but helps improve negative experiences. "Counting down an activity directs attention away from the activity to its end," the authors write.

"Duration knowledge prompts people to consider the state in which the ongoing experience terminates: an undesirable future state for pleasurable experiences and a desirable one for unpleasant experiences," the authors conclude.
I don't know what to believe.

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