Motivation and emotion/Book/2021/Anticipatory regret and motivation

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Anticipatory regret and motivation:
What is the motivational role of anticipatory regret?
Figure 1. Man displaying regret

Overview[edit | edit source]

People demonstrate the capacity to regret from as early as five years old (Weisberg & Beck, 2010). Zeelenberg and Pieters (2007) define regret as a negative emotion experienced when we believe the current situation could have been improved, had the chosen action been replaced with an alternate one. Regret is experienced after a behaviour or decision has occurred. However, regret can influence our cognitive process at the time of making a decision, this is called anticipatory regret. Anticipatory regret occurs when the decision maker imagines that a pending choice may have an unsatisfactory outcome that will lead them to regretting that choice (Gavanski & Wells, 1989). The negative experience of regret is said to be associated with an unpleasant feeling, sense of self-blame, and the desire to change the chosen outcome (Zeelenberg & Pieters, 2007). Figure 1 depicts a man displaying regret. Regret theories, such as Zeelenberg and Pieters (2007)'s theory of regret regulation suggest that humans are wired to avoid the unpleasant experience of regret. Anticipation of regret therefore, is seen as a powerful motivational force that influences our decisions.

Example of the power of anticipatory regret:

In a study by Wolfson and Briggs (2002), regular lottery participants in the national lottery in England (held Saturdays) were asked a range of questions including if they felt compelled or not (and to what extent the compulsion related to a feeling of anticipatory regret) to buy a ticket in a new Wednesday draw. Despite answering that they were not looking forward to the Wednesday draw and did not expect a big win, 38% of participants intended to play the Wednesday game because they did not want to miss out on a possible win. Of those participants intending to play, 80% reported using all or mostly the same numbers each week and that their motivation to play each game (including the new one) was motivated by a sense of despair and regret they imagined they would feel if their regular numbers were drawn and they hadn't bought a ticket.

Decision and regret theories help us better understand the effect of anticipatory regret on behaviours such as gambling and consumerism, and can be harnessed to promote positive outcomes in health and goal directed activities such as sport.

Focus questions
  1. What is anticipatory regret?
  2. How does anticipatory regret motivate behaviour?
  3. Which psychological theories help us understand anticipatory regret and its motivational force?
  4. Do we regret anticipated action and inaction equally?
  5. How can anticipated regret be applied to promote positive outcomes?

What is anticipatory regret?[edit | edit source]

Figure 2. Person experiencing anticipatory regret during the process of choosing between eating a burger or an apple.

Regret is associated with a type of thinking referred to as counterfactual thinking. It is counterfactual because the person imagines alternate outcomes to the actual outcome that did occur, based on perceived changes they could have made in their decision that resulted in the actual outcome (Bailey & Kinerson, 2005). Anticipated regret is often generated from experiences of regret that the person has learned from and is trying to avoid experiencing again. For example, see figure 2 where the person has previously chosen to eat a burger and felt regret after being too full and bloated and so is anticipating regretting the choice of the burger (option B) in their current decision. Anticipatory regret can also be generated in novel situations, where the person is able to imagine what they think the outcome may be (Baumeister et al., 2007).

  • Prediction that a decision or action about to be undertaken will cause regret.
  • Acknowledgement that the person has agency and therefore fault in the potentially aversive outcome.
  • Therefore influences the decision or action related to the anticipated regret.
  • (Zeelenberg & Pieters, 2007)

How does anticipatory regret motivate behaviour?[edit | edit source]

  • We are motivated to avoid the aversive experience of regret.
  • Where regret is predicted to result from one decision over another, we are motivated to select the option/enact the behaviour that will best avoid the experience of regret after the decision/behaviour has occurred (Zeelenberg & Pieters, 2007).
  • Similar motivational forces as fear, see emotion chapter 28 on fear appeals.

Which psychological theories help us understand anticipatory regret and its motivational force?[edit | edit source]

Expected utility theory[edit | edit source]

Expected utility (EU) theory attempts to explain and guide choice by calculating the most valuable course of action for a decision maker. This is done by multiplying the value of each potential outcome (in terms of value to the decision maker) by probability of its occurrence. The sum of that equation indicates the EU value for each potential course of action/option. It therefore offers guidance on how to select a course of action with the greatest benefit for the individual and their circumstance (Sebora & Cornwell,1995). Regret is said to factor into this theory when determining the value of each potential outcome for the individual, as both negative and positive elements of the outcome determine the value (Zeelenberg, 1999). This theory assumes a very rational approach to decision making which does not consider personal factors, emotions and cognitive limitations that human beings are susceptible to. It therefore fails to encapsulate the complicated relationship that regret, including anticipatory regret has on our decision making process (Sebora & Cornwell,1995).

Example: Despite it being well known that the likelihood of being killed in a car accident, is far higher than being killed in a plane accident, after the 9/11 attacks many Americans chose to drive instead of fly. The number of Americans who died in road accidents following the terrorist event was higher than the total number of passengers killed across the 4 hijacked flights (Gigerenzer, 2004; as cited in Goldstein, 2015).

Prospect theory[edit | edit source]

The authors of prospect theory, Kahneman and Tversky's (1979) attempt to account for some of the limitations of EU theory by exploring the impacts that emotion and cognitive biases have on decision making. The premise of this theory was formed on the findings that people tend to assess loss and gain unequally. For example, .......the same offer with the same outcome is assessed differently when it is proposed in terms of loss than when it is proposed in terms of gain. Prospect theory is also known as loss aversion theory because the assumption behind the difference in people's assessment of gain versus loss is that humans are motivated to avoid loss.

Behavioral economists claim that humans are wired for loss aversion, one of many cognitive biases identified by. Some psychological studies suggest that the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the joy we experience when winning. (

Critics from the field of psychology argued that even if Prospect Theory arose as a descriptive model, it offers no psychological explanations for the processes stated in it. Furthermore, factors that are equally important to decision making processes have not been included in the model, such as emotion. (

Minimax approach[edit | edit source]

Regret theory[edit | edit source]

Neurological theories[edit | edit source]

Maybe only include something on this if the info can be related to harnessing anticipatory regret to improve one or all of the areas of application??

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Suggestions for this section:

  • Adding this section would help tremendously when addressing the intergrated theory and depth component of the rubric for this assessment (see: book chapter rubric).
  • You could list 2-3 key theories (including the theories that contribute to the concept of anticipatory regret (i.e the building blocks of the concept) as well as an additional one that could help explain the phenomena of anticipitory regret
  • Placing it here can would help the flow of the chapter - it will also allow for the following sections to be supporting rvidence to theorectical explanations
  • Two possible theories: decision theory and prospect theory

Note: see discuss page for a potential resource for this section

Do we regret anticipated action and inaction equally?[edit | edit source]

There is debate over this question. Some findings such as those by Brewer et al. (2016), show that inaction has a higher association with anticipated regret, where others have found that regretting a potential action has a greater influence than inaction (Gilovich & Medvec, 1995). Pieters and Zeelenberg, (2007) argue that it is situation dependent and that the behavioural norm will effect whether or not we regret anticipated action or inaction higher than the other. For example, when faced with the decision whether or not to vaccinate your child. If the social norm is to vaccinate, you will perceive a higher level of anticipated regret for any negative outcomes associated with not vaccinating your child (inaction) than for vaccinating (action) (Leask et al., 2006).

How can anticipated regret be applied to promote positive outcomes?[edit | edit source]

  • Can be used to motivate healthy behaviour (brewer et al., 2016) and (Leask et al., 2006) and (Zajak et al., 2017).
  • Understanding gambling behaviours (Wolfson & Briggs, 2002).
  • Influencing consumer decisions (simonson, 1992) and (Keller et al., 2020). See motivation chapter 14, consumer panic buying motivation.
  • Motivating sportsmen/women (Turman, 2005).
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Suggestions for this section:

  • For the topic development, provide at least 3 bullet-points about key content per section. Include key citations.
  • For the book chapter, expand the bullet points into paragraphs.
  • If a section has a lot of content, arrange it into two to five sub-headings such as in the interactive learning features section. Avoid having sections with only one sub-heading.

Interactive learning features[edit | edit source]

What brings an online book chapter to life, compared to an essay, are its interactive learning features. Case studies, feature boxes, figures, links, tables, and quiz questions can be used throughout the chapter.

Case studies[edit | edit source]

Case studies describe real-world examples of concepts in action. Case studies can be real or fictional. A case could be used multiple times during a chapter to illustrate different theories or stages. It is often helpful to present case studies using feature boxes.

Feature boxes[edit | edit source]

Feature boxes can be used to highlight content, but don't overuse them. There are many different ways of creating feature boxes (e.g., see Pretty boxes). Possible uses include:

  • Focus questions
  • Case studies or examples
  • Quiz questions
  • Take-home messages
Feature box example
  • Shaded background
  • Coloured border

Figures[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Example image with descriptive caption.

Use figures to illustrate concepts, add interest, and provide examples. Figures can be used to show photographs, drawings, diagrams, graphs, et cetera. Figures can be embedded throughout the chapter, starting with the Overview section. Figures should be captioned (using a number and a description) in order to explain their relevance to the text. Possible images can be found at Wikimedia Commons. Images can also be uploaded if they are licensed for re-use or if you created the image. Each figure should be referred to at least once in the main text (e.g., see Figure 1).

Links[edit | edit source]

Where key words are first used, make them into interwiki links such as Wikipedia links to articles about famous people (e.g., Sigmund Freud and key concepts (e.g., dreams) and links to book chapters about related topics (e.g., would you like to learn about how to overcome writer's block?).

Tables[edit | edit source]

Tables can be an effective way to organise and summarise information. Tables should be captioned (using APA style) to explain their relevance to the text. Plus each table should be referred to at least once in the main text (e.g., see Table 1 and Table 2).

Here are some example 3 x 3 tables which could be adapted:

Table 1.

Example of a Table with an APA Style Caption

Children Gather Round
Mary had a
little lamb it's
fleece was white

Table 2.

Another Example of a Table with an APA Style Caption

Nursery Rhyme Time
Incy Wincy spider
climbed up the
water spout down

Table 3.

Example of a Sortable Table with an APA Style Caption

Fruit Price/kg Popularity
Tomatoes $6.00 1st
Bananas $5.00 2nd
Watermelon $2.99 3rd
Oranges $3.85 4th
Apples $4.95 5th
Grapes $9.50 6th
Mangoes $12.00 7th
Avocados $12.00 8th

Quizzes[edit | edit source]

Quizzes are a direct way to engage readers. But don't make quizzes too hard or long. It is better to have one or two review questions per major section than a long quiz at the end. Try to quiz conceptual understanding, rather than trivia.

Here are some simple quiz questions which could be adapted. Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

1 Quizzes are an interactive learning feature:


2 Long quizzes are a good idea:


To learn about different types of quiz questions, see Quiz.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The Conclusion is arguably the most important section. It should be possible for someone to read only the Overview and the Conclusion and still get a good idea of the topic.

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Suggestions for this section:

  • What is the answer to the question in the sub-title (based on psychological theory and research)?
  • What are the answers to the focus questions?
  • What are the practical, take-home messages?

See also[edit | edit source]

In this section, provide up to half-a-dozen internal (wiki) links to relevant Wikiversity pages (esp. related motivation and emotion book chapters) and Wikipedia articles. For example:

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Suggestions for this section:

  • Present in alphabetical order.
  • Include the source in parentheses.

References[edit | edit source]

Bailey, J. J., & Kinerson, C. (2005). Regret Avoidance and Risk Tolerance. "Journal of Financial Counseling & Planning", "16"(1), 23–28.

Baumeister, R. F., Vohs, K. D., DeWall, C. N., & Zhang, L. (2007). How Emotion Shapes Behavior: Feedback, Anticipation, and Reflection, Rather Than Direct Causation. "Personality and Social Psychology Review", "11"(2), 167–203.

Beike, Markman, K. D., & Karadogan, F. (2009). What We Regret Most Are Lost Opportunities: A Theory of Regret Intensity. "Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin", "35"(3), 385–397.

Brewer, N. T., DeFrank, J. T., & Gilkey, M. B. (2016). Anticipated regret and health behavior: A meta-analysis. Health Psychology, 35(11), 1264–1275.

Conner, McEachan, R., Taylor, N., O’Hara, J., & Lawton, R. (2015). Role of Affective Attitudes and Anticipated Affective Reactions in Predicting Health Behaviors. "Health Psychology", "34"(6), 642–652.

Feldman, & Albarracín, D. (2017). Norm theory and the action-effect: The role of social norms in regret following action and inaction. "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology", "69", 111–120.

Gavanski, I., Wells, G. L. (1989). Counterfactual processing of normal and exceptional events. "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology", "25", 314-325.

Keller, P. A., Hesselton, K., & Volpp, K. G. (2020). Increasing recruitment and engagement with time-limited financial incentives. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 5(3), 259–270.

Leask, J., Chapman, S., Hawe, P., & Burgess, M. (2006). What maintains parental support for vaccination when challenged by anti-vaccination messages? A qualitative study. Vaccine, 24(49), 7238–7245.

Reb. (2008). Regret aversion and decision process quality: Effects of regret salience on decision process carefulness. "Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes", "105"(2), 169–182.

Sebora, T. C., & Cornwall, J. R. (1995). Expected Utility Theory Vs. Prospect Theory: Implications For Strategic Decision Makers. "Journal of Managerial Issues", "7"(1), 41–61.

Sheeran, & Orbell, S. (1999). Augmenting the Theory of Planned Behavior: Roles for Anticipated Regret and Descriptive Norms. "Journal of Applied Social Psychology", "29"(10), 2107–2142.

Simonson, I. (1992). The influence of anticipating regret and responsibility on purchase decisions. Journal of Consumer Research, 19, 105-118.

Sirigu, Dolan, R. J., Coricelli, G., Critchley, H. D., Joffily, M., & O’Doherty, J. P. (2005). Regret and its avoidance: a neuroimaging study of choice behavior. "Nature Neuroscience", "8"(9), 1255–1262.

Turman, P. D. (2005). Coaches’ Use of anticipatory and counterfactual regret messages during competition. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 33(2), 116–138.

Wolfson, S., Briggs, P.(2002). Locked into gambling: Anticipatory regret as a motivator for playing the national lottery. J Gambl Stud, 18, 1–17.

Zajac, I. T., Duncan, A., Freegard, S., Wilson, C., Flight, I., & Turnbull, D. (2017). Exploring the potential of anticipated regret as an emotional cue to improve bowel cancer screening uptake. BioMed Research International, Template:Missing page range, 2949020–2949027.

Zeelenberg. (1999). Anticipated regret, expected feedback and behavioral decision making. "Journal of Behavioral Decision Making", "12"(2), 93–106.<93::AID-BDM311>3.0.CO;2-S

Zeelenberg, M., & Pieters, R. (2007). A theory of regret regulation 1.0. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 17(1), 3–18.

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Suggestions for this section:

  • Important aspects include:
    • Wrap the set of references in the hanging indent template. Using "Edit source": {{Hanging indent|1= the full list of references}}
    • Author surname, followed by a comma, then author initials separated by full stops and spaces
    • Year of publication in parentheses
    • Title of work in lower case except first letter and proper names, ending in a full-stop.
    • Journal title in italics, volume number in italics, issue number in parentheses, first and last page numbers separated by a en-dash(–), followed by a full-stop.
    • Provide the full doi as a URL and working hyperlink
  • Common mistakes include:
    • incorrect capitalisation
    • incorrect italicisation
    • providing a "retrieved from" date (not part of APA 7th ed. style).
    • citing sources that weren't actually read or consulted

External links[edit | edit source]

In this section, provide up to half-a-dozen external links to relevant external resources such as presentations, news articles, and professional sites. For example:

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Suggestions for this section:

  • Only select links to major external resources about the topic
  • Present in alphabetical order
  • Include the source in parentheses after the link