People find unexpected bad news aversive and often brace themselves by predicting the worst. Three experiments examined whether the pessimism is influenced by personal need. Students who differed in financial need learned that a billing error meant that some students would receive an additional bill from their university. Financially needy students were consistently pessimistic in predicting their likelihood of receiving a bill, whereas non-needy students were not. In addition, the experiments reveal that (a) the pessimism occurred for potential losses but not potential gains, (b) needy students were pessimistic about their own chances but not the chances of a friend, (c) the pessimism was not attributable to needy students' being more readily primed by the news of a possible bill or to needy students' having more experience with billing errors, and (d) the pessimism was specific to monetary losses and did not generalize to other events.
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