Relief in everyday life

Agnieszka Graham, Teresa McCormack, Sara Lorimer, Christoph Hoerl, Sarah R. Beck, Matthew Johnston, Aidan Feeney

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Despite being implicated in a wide range of psychological and behavioral phenomena, relief remains poorly understood from the perspective of psychological science. What complicates the study of relief is that people seem to use the term to describe an emotion that occurs in two distinct situations: when an unpleasant episode is over, or upon realizing that an outcome could have been worse. This study constitutes a detailed empirical investigation of people’s reports of everyday episodes of relief. A set of four studies collected a large corpus (N = 1835) of first-person reports of real-life episodes of relief and examined people’s judgments about the antecedents of relief, its relation to counterfactual thoughts, and its subsequent effects on decision making. Some participants described relief experiences that had either purely temporal or purely counterfactual precursors. Nevertheless, the findings indicated that the prototypical instance of relief appears to be one in which both these elements are present. The results also suggest that, although relief is frequently experienced in situations in which people are not responsible for the relief-inducing event, nevertheless they typically report that the experience had a positive impact on subsequent decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
Early online date01 Dec 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 01 Dec 2022


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