Previous accounts of regret suggest that people report greater regret for inaction than for action because the former is longer lasting and more painful than the latter. We suggest instead that the tendency for people's greatest regrets to concern inaction more than action may be due to the relatively self-enhancing nature of regrets for inaction. In Study I we asked people to think about their greatest recent regret and to code it as being due to action or inaction. In Study 2 participants described their greatest regret from across their entire life. In both studies we observed an inaction effect only amongst individuals high in self-esteem (HSE). In Study 2 we found that the inaction effect was confined to HSE people whose greatest regret was personal in nature. These results support the claim that regret for inaction is relatively self-enhancing and suggest that the inaction effect found in real-life regrets may be due, in part at least, to the self-enhancement goals of HSE individuals. Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology