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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

The Role of Regret in Decision-Making: A Developmental Study

Regret has been argued to play an important role in decision making. By studying how children’s choices are affected by bad outcomes, this project proposes a new way of determining whether regret facilitates profitable decision making. It is known that at six years of age only some children are capable of experiencing regret. There is also some evidence that the ability to experience regret is associated with the tendency to choose profitably in response to earlier bad outcomes.

This project will explore whether the relationship between regret and decision making is a causal one, and whether good decision making depends on the ability to experience regret over a specific outcome, or the more general ability to anticipate regret. Finally, the project will examine whether the experience or anticipation of regret plays an important role in the ability to delay gratification, and in children’s decision making under conditions of risk. An associated postgraduate student will examine several of the same issues using adapted versions of the developmental tasks with patients who have difficulties experiencing or anticipating regret due to brain damage. These complementary lines of research will help to clarify the relationship(s) between regret and decision making.