Actors, observers, and the estimation of task duration

Michael M. Roy, Elizabethtown College
Nicholas J.S. Christenfeld, Department of Psychology
Meghan Jones, Elizabethtown College


People are often wrong in estimating both how long tasks have taken in the past and how long they will take in the future. Bias could be due to factors such as task involvement, an individual's engagement or motivation in completing the task, or aspects of the task such as its relative duration or memory storage size associated with it. We examined time estimation bias in actors (likely to experience high levels of task involvement) and observers (likely to experience low levels of task involvement) for both predictions of and memory of task duration. Results suggest that bias appears to be due to memory storage size rather than to involvement with the task. © 2013 Copyright The Experimental Psychology Society.