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p151_ch14_happy_post - Psychology 151 Chapter 14 Regret...

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1 Psychology 151 5/20/2009 Chapter 14: Chapter 14: Regret & Happiness “Those who claim that money can’t buy happiness just don’t know where to shop.” —Anonymous The Emotion of Regret Unpleasant feeling experienced when people look back on bad decisions • Paul owns shares in company A. During the past year he considered switching to stock in company B, but he decided against it. He now finds out that he would have been better off by $1,200 if he had switched to the stock in company B. • George owned shares in company B. During the past year he switched to stock in company A. He now finds out that he would have been better off by $1,200 if he had kept his stock in company B. Regret – Action or Inaction? What would you say you regret more, those things that you did but wish you hadn’t, or those things that you didn’t do but wish you had? In general, people regret: (Zeelenberg et al. 2002) Inaction seems more “normal” Actions easier to undo mentally (counterfactuals) But, over time… Gilovich & Medvec (1994) Adults list single most regrettable action & single most regrettable inaction, from past week or past year. Do you regret action or inaction more? Week: 53% action Year: 84% inaction Short-term Long-term What causes the shift in regret over time? Possible reasons Possible reasons – Infinite number of consequences (upward counterfactuals) for inactions, but limited number for actions E.g., if only I asked her out vs. if only I didn’t ask her out – Forces that compel action easier to “see” – Reasons for inaction less salient w/ time People have difficulty understanding why they did not act Reasons for inaction fade over time
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