Affect as a Decision-Making System of the Present

Hanwen Hannah CHANG, Singapore Management University
Michel Tuan Pham

Forthcoming at the Journal of Consumer Research


We review a variety of empirical findings consistent with the general thesis that the affective system of judgment and decision making is inherently anchored in the present. Building on this thesis, we advance the specific hypothesis that affective feelings are relied upon more (weighted more heavily) in judgments whose outcomes and targets are closer to the present than in those whose outcomes and targets are temporally more distant. Consistent with this hypothesis, results from five experiments show that temporal proximity (a) amplifies the relative preference for options that are affectively superior, and (b) increases the effects of incidental affect on evaluations. These effects are observed when compared to a more distant future as well as to a more distant past, and (c) they appear to be linked to a greater perceived information value of affective feelings in judgments whose outcomes and targets are closer to the present. Theoretical implications are discussed.