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Aaron Sackett photo
Predictions and Optimism

Thinking about our own future is part of what makes us human.  This stream of research explores our tendencies and biases in predictions of future personal outcomes, when and why we tend to err on the side of optimism rather than pessimism, and the implications for our forecasting abilities.


Selected media contributions:

MIT Sloan Management ReviewPsychology Today, Forbes

Hazlett, A., Molden, D.C., & Sackett, A.M. (2013). Hoping for the Best or Preparing for the Worst? Regulatory Focus and Preferences for Optimism and Pessimism in Predicting Personal Outcomes. Social Cognition, 29, 74-96.

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Armor, D.A., Massey, C., & Sackett, A.M. (2008). Prescribed optimism: Is it right to be wrong about the future?Psychological Science, 19, 329-331.

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Armor, D., & Sackett, A.M. (2006). Accuracy, error, and bias in predictions for real versus hypothetical events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 583-600.

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Goals, Performance, and Satisfaction

This research stream is designed to extend the field's understanding of the relationships between the performance goals they set for themselves, and how these goals can facilitate better performance.  It also examines how goals serve as reference points that affect how we evaluate, and are satisfied or dissatisfied with, later performance outcomes.

Markle, A., Wu, G., White, R., & Sackett, A. (2018).  Goals as Reference Points in Marathon Running: A Novel Test of Reference-Dependence.  Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 56, 19-50.

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Sackett, A. M., Wu, G., White, R. J., & Markle, A. B. (2017).  Harnessing optimism: How eliciting goals improves performance.  Manuscript under review.

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The Impact of Time on Judgments and Decision Making

Time is such a ubiquitous part of our existence that it is easy to neglect how our perceptions of time influence our judgments and decisions.  This theme ties two distinct projects together.


Selected media contributions:

NPR, BBC Radio, New York Times, The Atlantic, Fortune

Sackett, A. M., Meyvis, T., Nelson, L.D., Converse, B.A., & Sackett, A.L. (2010). You're having fun when time flies: The hedonic consequences of subjective time progression," Psychological Science, 21, (2010): 111-117.

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Alexander, D.L., & Sackett, A.M. (2013). If only I had the time! The impact of time salience on consumers’ evaluations of product offers.  Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 12, 382-388.

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Other Research Projects & Papers

"I'm Going To Vote Today!"


In this project, I am working with Chris Bryan to develop a minimalist intervention to increase voter engagement.  We conducted a large-scale field intervention with over 100,000 registered voters in the city of St. Paul, MN during the 2016 general and 2017 municipal elections, plus a spinoff project in Denver, CO. We plan to conduct another run in St. Paul for the 2018 midterm election. The St. Paul field interventions have been funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation, with the project being a 2016 winner of the Knight Cities Challenge.


Media coverage:

Knight Foundation, UST Newsroom


The self-contaminating effects of repeated self-report measurements


In this project, Omesh Johar and I explore how asking people to report their own feelings about an event changes those feelings. Specifically, we have found that negative emotions weaken with repeated measurement. We have not found similar weakening of positive emotions with repeated measurements, although we do have evidence that positive emotions are also contaminated by self-reports. We currently have one published paper on this topic, and follow-up studies are in the works.

Johar, O., & Sackett, A. M. (2018). The self-contaminating nature of repeated reports of negative emotions. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 40, 293-307, DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2018.1496336.

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Entrepreneurial entry decisions and a "rational bias" account for over-entry


In a series of studies, Oliver Sheldon and I have examined how potential entrepreneurs' decisions over whether to pursue a new venture are influenced by the degree to which they see the potential consequences of failure to be more negative and less positve than the consequences of a missed opportunity, or vice versa.

Sackett, A. M., & Sheldon, O. J.  On Missed Boats and Sunken Ships: Asymmetric Tolerance for Errors in Entrepreneurial Entry Decisions. Manuscript in preparation.

The Pipeline Project


This crowdsourced project introduces a collaborative approach to improving the reproducibility of scientific research, in which findings are replicated in qualified independent laboratories before (rather than after) they are published. 

Schweinsberg, M., et al. (2016). The Pipeline Project: Pre-Publication Independent Replications of a Single Laboratory’s Research Pipeline. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 66, 55-67.

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Tierney, W., et al. (2016). Data from a pre-publication independent replication initiative examining ten moral judgement effects. Scientific Data, 3: 160082.

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Media coverage:

The Atlantic, Retraction Watch

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