Regret and adaptive decision making in young children

Eimear O'Connor, Teresa McCormack, Sarah R. Beck, Aidan Feeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
241 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In line with the claim that regret plays a role in decision making, O’Connor, McCormack, and Feeney (2014) found that children who reported feeling sadder on discovering they had made a non-optimal choice were more likely to make a different choice next time round. We examined two issues of interpretation regarding this finding: whether the emotion measured was indeed regret, and whether it was the experience of this emotion rather than the ability to anticipate it that impacted on decision making. To address the first issue, we varied the degree to which children aged 6-7 were responsible for an outcome, assuming that responsibility is a necessary condition for regret. The second was addressed by examining whether children could accurately anticipate that they would feel worse on discovering they had made a non-optimal choice. Children were more likely to feel sad if they were responsible for the outcome; however even if they were not responsible, children were more likely than chance to report feeling sadder. Moreover, across all conditions feeling sadder was associated with making a better subsequent choice. In a separate task, we demonstrated that children of this age cannot accurately anticipate feeling sadder on discovering that they had not made the best choice. These findings suggest that although children may feel regret following a non-optimal choice, even if they were not responsible for an outcome they may experience another negative emotion such as frustration. Experiencing either of these emotions seems to be sufficient to support better decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-92
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Volume135
Early online date03 Apr 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Keywords

  • Experienced regret
  • anticipated regret
  • decision making
  • development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Decision Sciences(all)

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