Overestimating the Valuations of Others

People often make judgments about their own and others’ valuations and preferences. Across 12 studies (N=17,939), we find a robust bias in these judgments such that people tend to believe that others have more intense experiences than they do, leading to overestimation of others’ valuations and preferences. We argue that this overestimation arises because estimations of others’ preferences rely on people’s intuitive, core representations of the experience itself (i.e., whether the experience is positive or negative). We first demonstrate that the overestimation bias is pervasive for a wide range of positive (Studies 1-4) and negative experiences (Study 5), and is not merely an artifact of how preferences are measured (Study 6). This overestimation bias ultimately forms a paradox in how people think that others tradeoff between valuation and utility (Study 7). Specifically, people believe that an identically-paying other would enjoy the same experience more than they would, but also that an identically-enjoying other would pay more for the same experience. Such paradoxical judgments do not extend to domains unrelated to preference and valuation (Studies 8A-8B), but do extend to other preference measures, such as willingness-to-wait (Studies 9-10). Finally, consistent with a core representation explanation, explicitly prompting people to consider the entire distribution of others’ preferences significantly reduced or eliminated the bias (Study 11). These findings suggest that social judgments of others’ preferences are not only largely biased, but they also ignore how others make tradeoffs between evaluative metrics.