The effects of action, normality, and decision carefulness on anticipated regret: Evidence for a broad mediating role of decision justifiability

Jochen Reb, Terence Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Two distinct theoretical views explain the effects of action/inaction and social normality on anticipated regret. Norm theory (Kahneman & Miller, 1986) emphasises the role of decision mutability, the ease with which one can imagine having made a different choice. Decision justification theory (Connolly & Zeelenberg, 2002) highlights the role of decision justifiability, the perception that the choice was made on a defensible basis, supported by convincing arguments or using a thoughtful, comprehensive decision process. The present paper tests several contrasting predictions from the two theoretical approaches in a series of four studies. Study 1 replicated earlier findings showing greater anticipated regret when the chosen option was abnormal than when it was normal, and perceived justifiability mediated the effect. Study 2 showed that anticipated regret was higher for careless than for careful decisions. Study 3 replicated this finding for a sample holding a different social norm towards the focal decision. Finally, Study 4 found that, when decision carefulness, normality and action/inaction were all specified, only the former showed a significant effect on anticipated regret, and the effect was again mediated by perceived justifiability. Decision justification theory thus appears to provide a better account of anticipated regret intensity in this context than does norm theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1405-1420
Number of pages16
JournalCognition and Emotion
Volume24
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2010

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Emotions
Decision Theory
Normality
Justification

Keywords

  • Anticipated regret
  • Decision process carefulness
  • Justifiability
  • Normality
  • Regret aversion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Cite this

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