On the Consequences of Mentally Simulating Future Foregone Outcomes: A Regret Regulation Perspective

Authored by: Marcel Zeelenberg , Rik Pieters

Handbook of Imagination and Mental Simulation

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  September  2012

Print ISBN: 9781841698878
eBook ISBN: 9780203809846
Adobe ISBN: 9781136678103


 Download Chapter



When deciding what to do, we often think about the consequences of our actions and evaluate their attractiveness and likelihood of occurrence. Our choices are then at least partly based on these appraisals. However, when decisions are important enough, we also tend to think about how we would evaluate our outcomes in light of the outcomes forgone. This has sometimes been referred to as prefactual thinking (e.g., Sanna, 1996). For example, when choosing to invest all our savings in risky stocks, we may envision the situation that the stock market crashes and compare that outcome to the alternative in which our money would have been securely placed in a savings account. In turn, entertaining such prefactual thoughts arouses emotions In this particular example, one could already feel the regret on learning that the savings account would have dramatically outperformed the stock market investment. This feeling of potential regret concerning future worlds is often called anticipated regret or anticipatory regret. More than two decades of research have shown that when this type of regret is elicited, it can exert a strong influence on our behavior (for a review, see Zeelenberg, 1999a). More specifically, decision makers tend to regulate their regrets, such that they behave in a way that allows them to avoid experiencing this emotion in the future In this chapter, we review what we have learned over these years and what remains to be learned, and we do so by presenting our attempt to formulate a theory of regret that integrates these observations and delineates opportunities for future research We first address what regret is before turning to the effects of its anticipation.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.