Making time estimates, such as how long a given task might take, frequently leads to inaccurate predictions because of an optimistic bias. Previous attempts to alleviate this bias, including decomposing the task into smaller components and listing potential surprises, have not shown any major improvement. This article builds on the premise that these procedures may have failed because they involve compound probabilities and mixture distributions which are difficult to compute in one's head. We hypothesize that predictive visualizations of such distributions would facilitate the estimation of task durations. We conducted a crowdsourced study in which 145 participants provided different estimates of overall and sub-task durations and we used these to generate predictive visualizations of the resulting mixture distributions. We compared participants' initial estimates with their updated ones and found compelling evidence that predictive visualizations encourage less optimistic estimates.
The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (https://chi2022.acm.org/)