- Emotional reactions to the outcomes of decisions: the role of counterfactual thought in the experience of regret and disappointment
- Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
- Volume | Issue number
- 75 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Regret and disappointment are emotions that can be experienced in response to an unfavorable outcome of a decision. Previous research suggests that both emotions are related to the process of counterfactual thinking. The present research extends this idea by combining it with ideas from regret and disappointment theory. The results show that regret is related to behavior-focused counterfactual thought in which the decision-maker's own actions are changed, whereas disappointment is related to situation-focused counterfactual thought in which aspects of the situation are changed. In Study 1 participants (N= 130) were asked to recall an autobiographical episode of either a regretful or a disappointing event. When asked to undo this event, regret participants predominantly changed their own actions, whereas disappointment participants predominantly changed aspects of the situation. In Study 2 all participants (N= 50) read a scenario in which a person experiences a negative event. Participants who were instructed to undo the event by changing the person's actions reported more regret than disappointment, while participants who were instructed to undo the event by changing aspects of the situation reported more disappointment than regret. Study 3 (N= 140) replicated the findings from Study 2 with a different scenario, and a design in which regret and disappointment were measured between rather than within subjects. In the discussion we address the relation among counterfactual thinking, attributions and affective reactions to decision outcomes, and the implications for decision research.
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