In detail

What is impact bias?

What is impact bias?

Clara is a woman who lived her entire marriage convinced that, if she and her husband separated, she would feel so devastated that she could never be happy again. I firmly thought that this event would be catastrophic and that I would never lift my head. As the crises in their relationship became more tangible, their belief reaffirmed by filling it with desolation. However, when their marriage ended, Clara managed to get ahead and after a time of overcoming and grieving, she was happy again living a full life without fear of loneliness. The extremely negative thoughts he clung to in the past never happened and showed how his beliefs were influenced by the impact bias, a cognitive distortion that keeps us blocked.


  • 1 Impact bias
  • 2 Research on impact bias
  • 3 Leave extreme predictions aside

Impact bias

Impact bias is a cognitive distortion that is based on the tendency to overestimate the intensity and duration of our emotional reactions to future events. When a person has an impact bias, he or she is prone to believe that, if a particular event occurs, the feelings that will accompany it will be much more extremes than they should be

Is cognitive distortion, not only occurs before the visualization of future negative events, but also in events that we want. For example, we tend to think that, if something wonderful happens to us, like the lottery touches us, our whole life would be better and we would no longer have problems. However, lots of people who have been lucky enough to win lottery prizes have claimed that, after the initial positive impact, their lives have continued to have other problems.

In the opposite case, it is very easy to find people who believe that if they happen negative eventLike a job dismissal or a sentimental break, their lives would be meaningless and everything would be a fatality. However, when these events subsequently occur, people realize that their predictions were not true and that, after the initial impact, they return to recover happiness and balance.

Research on impact bias

Impact bias has been studied in different investigations revealing how it influences our emotional stability. Specifically, Dan gilbert, social psychologist of the Harvard University He has focused on studying this cognitive distortion in different investigations.

Gilbert, showed in different studies how impact bias prompted people to overestimate your emotional reactions Given the anticipation of events such as ruptures, failing to get something we want, criticisms about our personality, deaths, job rejections and even electoral defeats.

Gilbert found very interesting facts about our emotional response to very negative traumatic events. For example, contrary to what we think, inescapable extreme situations often increase positivity in people. When someone experiences a very traumatic situation like living an earthquake or suffering an accident, their levels of happiness are usually the same again six months after this happens. According to Gilbert, this happens because these extreme events awaken our "Psychological immune system", a hypothetical psychological defense that promotes our ability to recover from tragic events and gives us the ability to have a positive perspective to achieve emotional balance.

A very famous study in 1978 carried out by the Northwestern University, showed these amazing and almost incredible results. The researchers studied the levels of happiness of a person who had won the lottery and another person who suffered paraplegia after an accident. After a year of these events, when measuring the levels of happiness, these were equal in the two people. Although the results have not been subsequently replicated, they have been supported in other investigations.

Leave extreme predictions aside

Impact bias is a blocking cognitive distortion, since it makes us predict future states that may never happen and keep us mired in fear. To overcome this cognitive distortion, it is important to become aware of it and put effort into working for its extinction. If the impact bias is very frequent in our daily lives and keeps us imprisoned in the fear of the future, we can turn to a qualified professional in psychological health. Specifically, the cognitive behavioral therapyIt aims to improve the health of patients by detecting and removing those cognitive distortions that, like impact bias, keep us paralyzed.