Regret and Elation Following Action and Inaction Affective Responses to Positive Versus Negative Outcomes

Author: 
Janet Landman
Summary: 
In their research on decision under uncertainty, Kahneman and Tversky (1982a) examined whether, given the same negative outcome, there is any difference in the experience of regret, depending on whether the outcome follows action or inaction.
Abstract: 
In their research on decision under uncertainty, Kahneman and Tversky (1982a) examined whether, given the same negative outcome, there is any difference in the experience of regret, depending on whether the outcome follows action or inaction. This study attempted to replicate Kahneman and Tversky's (1982a) finding of greater regret for action than inaction and to determine whether this pattern extends to the parallel case of joy over happy outcomes, to different life domains, and to both genders. Through a vignette experiment, the previous finding of a strong tendency to imagine greater regret following action than inaction was replicated. The same pattern was observed in the case of joy over positive outcomes. In two of the three vignettes presented, this "actor effect "was stronger for negative than for positive outcomes. In a third vignette, explicit knowledge of a missed negative outcome seems to have magnified the usual joy over having made a good decision, causing the expected joy over acting and succeeding to rise to the typically high level of regret over acting and failing. Suggestions regarding the future study of these issues are offered.