Regret and Responsibility in the Evaluation of Decision Outcomes

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Abstract

The negative affect associated with bad decision outcomes is often thought to involve feelings of remorse or self-blame. For example, studies showing greater regret associated with active than with passive choice are interpreted as the active chooser piling self-recrimination on top the disappointment of a poor outcome. Corresponding rejoicing is postulated for active choice that leads to good outcomes. The five experiments reported here challenge such a view. In each, hypothetical individuals experienced identical gains or losses, some as a result of their own choice, others as a result of an external, arbitrary process. Though evaluations of final outcomes were heavily influenced by the paths by which the outcomes were reached, and by the comparison levels that were evoked, in no case was decision agency a significant influence. In these experiments, then, the "active chooser" effect appears more a matter of change than of choice, of the route taken rather than whether one is the driver or the passenger. Further research will be needed to establish the circumstances under which different salient comparisons are evoked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-85
Number of pages13
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Volume70
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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