Self-infliction of pain increases unrealistic optimism but not risk-taking



This is the data package of Chapter 4 of How Hwee Ong's dissertation. Past research has found that when people witness undeserved suffering of others, there is a tendency to exhibit a form of magical justice beliefs where they expect that the victims of suffering would be compensated with future rewards in impossible ways. However, whether or not this expectation would also generalize to their own suffering remained an open question. In Study 1, we found that participants who chose to self-inflict physical pain became more unrealistically optimistic about their chances of winning a random lottery, suggesting that they expected their decisions to suffer pain would be rewarded in impossible ways. In Study 2, we examined if this expectation would translate to greater risk-taking on a financial risk task, but our findings did not support this – participants who chose to self-inflict physical pain did not take greater risks. We speculate that this difference in findings of Study 1 and Study 2 could potentially be explained by whether or not consequential decisions were involved. When no consequential decisions were involved (Study 1), participants might exhibit a tendency to expect one’s own suffering to be compensated in impossible ways. However, the involvement of consequential decisions (Study 2) appears to have attenuated this tendency.
Date made available30 Aug 2022

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