Repentance is an important emotion for studying human decision-making. A new study published in Psychological science found that being able to notice our forgotten alternatives (rather than being uncertain or uncertain about them) can reduce our feelings of regret over our decisions.
“Repentance is described as a counterfeit emotion that results in the absence of a previous basis for a decision or a result that does not meet the standard of comparison,” wrote study authors Daniel Feiler and Johannes Müller-Trede. “Typically, this standard of comparison is determined by the specific results of the unselected options.”
Some studies have shown that we are more likely to regret our decisions when we compare the results of the choices we did not make (i.e., the rejected alternative) with the unknown or unknown results. The authors of the study believe that this may be due to the tendency to overestimate the attractiveness of our desired choices. “We use the term alternative oven The second most preferred option out of the big review is to turn to the last candidate who was finally rejected.
For Study 1, they hired 800 adults from the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) online research platform. Participants were told that they were playing a virtual dating app, and they saw several faces and determined which one was the most appealing. Participants choose which gender of faces they want to see. In particular, they were given 9 photos and told to choose the best 2 photos. They were then presented with these two pictures and told to choose one. The images are blurred and the features of the images are not noticeable.
Then their choice seemed vague. Participants were randomly assigned to view an unselected, non-obscure (alternative-obscure) second choice or a vague (alternative-explicit condition) image of the second choice. Participants then assessed how much they regretted their choice. They also assessed the attractiveness of the chosen option and the second, non-selected option. Those in a position of alternative ambiguity were asked to evaluate the attractiveness of the unselected option. Seventy-two images of similar age and attractiveness were selected from the Chicago Face Database.
Participants in the alternative ambiguity situation regretted their decision more than those in the alternative position. In addition, those who were in a position of alternative ambiguity expected that their second choice would be more favorable than those who were in an alternative situation, which they considered to be their second choice. There were no differences in the attractiveness of the selected option in terms of conditions.
Contrary to previous studies, this finding is in line with researchers’ expectations, as we have the opportunity to overestimate our most important choices. In other words, participants were more likely to appreciate the uncertainty of an unknown outcome than those who were still able to compare the attractiveness of the choice with another option.
In Study 2, the researchers tried to conceptually replicate the results of Study 1 in a different context. They hired 599 adult participants from MTurk. Participants were given the role of an employer in a consulting firm and were informed about 10 job candidates and their general skills. They were given the task of hiring the most talented candidate and were financially motivated to make a good choice.
Participants were once again asked to create a short list of two options before making a final decision. Participants were then given points from “real ability” candidates selected by human resources a few months after recruitment. They were also reminded of the second, unselected option. Participants were also assigned to see their actual ability score, which was also included in their shortlisted, non-selected (alternative-rewritten candidate random condition) or to recall points used in the recruitment process (alternative-hidden condition). Participants then regretted their decision to hire.
According to Study 1, those in the alternative-latent state expressed more regrets than those in the alternative-latency state. Thus, Study 2 supports the hypothesis that being able to observe the results of more unselected options may reduce regret.
Study 3 was the same as Study 2, except for the assessment of the true potential of the other alternative. One hundred and fifty-seven adult participants from MTurk were involved in this study. The results showed that the people’s appreciation of the abilities of the candidate who passed the election was higher than their real abilities. The results also show a link between overestimation of the lost candidate’s abilities and great regret.
Study 4 was almost identical to Study 3, with the exception of additional experimental manipulation (197 adults from MTurk). Once they have made a decision to hire, participants are randomly assigned to obtain an optimal assessment of the lost candidate’s ability using information (debit status) or absence (management condition) in the recruitment process. The results showed that those in the debia state were less remorseful than those in the control state, indicating that information about the true potential of the other alternative reduced people’s remorse.
Overall, the results show that overestimating the rejected alternatives is important for remorse in decision-making. Some limitations in this implementation include the removal of mainly White and U.S.-based models and other possible comparison standards.
The study, “A Man Who Avoids Overestimating Forgiven Alternatives as a Secret Source of Regret,” was published on January 21, 2022.