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Summary assessment of experiences: the whole is different from the sum of its parts

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Over the past decade a substantial body of research has examined summary evaluations of experiences such the ones described above. IN particular, this research investigated the correspondence between experience profiles and their overall assessments, which is the topic of this paper. To illustrate, Ariely and Carmon examined how hourly pain reports corresponded to end-of-the-day evaluations in which patients were asked to assess the overall pain they underwent throughout the entire day. A primary motivation for this line of research has been the finding that when people form summary assessments of experiences they do not combine the individual components of the experience profiles. Instead, a large number of studies has repeatedly demonstrated that neither the sum (integral) nor the average of experience profiles, corresponds closely to overall evaluations of their components (for reviews of this research see Ariely and Carmon, 2000, Frederickson, 2000, Huber et al., 1997). Therefore studying experience profiles must focus not only on their components (intensities of the transient states) but also on the rules people use to combine these components into overall evaluations. The paper is organizaed as follows. In section 1 the authors sum up what is known about how experiences are summarized. IN particular, they describe central features of expereinces that appear to dominate their summary evaluation. They briefly describe empirical evidence for effects of these features and identify variables that can moderate those effects. In section 2 the authors discuss the weighting of the duration of experiences in summary evaluations, and list variables that may influence this weighting. In section 3, they present ideas about why gestalt characteristics they described in section 1 affect summary evaluations. Specifically, they propose ideas about the role of efficient encoding, and about tendencies to predict future states. In section 4 Ariely and Carmon describe ideas about retrospective reevaluations and reinterpretations of experiences, then suggest directions for future research in this domain in section 5. They conclude this chapter with a few final thoughts in section 6.

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