What do we regret the most?

In this study of regret among a representative sample of Americans, the authors examined hypotheses derived from regret regulation theory, which asserts that regrets motivate a range of ameliorative cognitive consequences. Using a random-digit telephone survey, respondents reported a salient regret, then answered questions about that regret. Results showed inaction regrets lasted longer than action regrets, and that greater loss severity corresponded to more inaction regrets. Regrets more often focused on nonfixable than fixable situations. Women more than men reported love rather than work regrets and, overall, regrets more often focused on romance than on other life domains. Objective life circumstances (referenced by demographic variables) predicted regret in patterns consistent with regret regulation theory. These results complement laboratory findings while suggesting new refinements to existing theory.

Source: “Regrets of the Typical American: Findings From a Nationally Representative Sample” from Social Psychological and Personality Science

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