Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 971–984 | Cite as

Predicting with your head, not your heart: Forecasting errors and the impact of anticipated versus experienced elements of regret on well-being

  • Tonya M. BuchananEmail author
  • Joshua Buchanan
  • Kylie R. Kadey
Original Paper


Research suggests that when predicting our future emotions, affective forecasting errors are frequent (Wilson and Gilbert in Adv Exp Soc Psychol 35:345–411, 2003), influence motivation (Wilson and Gilbert in Curr Dir Psychol Sci 14:131–134, 2005), and drive decisions and behaviors (Dunn and Laham Affective forecasting: a user’s guide to emotional time travel, Psychology Press, London, 2006). Regret can fall prey to these same errors (Gilbert et al., in Psychol Sci 15:346–350, 2004). Recent research characterizes two distinct components of regret: an affective element and cognitive element associated with maladaptive and functional outcomes, respectively (Buchanan et al., in Judgment and Decision Making 11:275–286, 2006). We explored forecasting of these elements across two studies. In Study 1, we investigated how accurately individuals forecast each component of regret, and how this relates to well-being. Participants forecasted experiencing a greater amount of regret (including affective and cognitive components) than they actually experienced. Additionally, forecasted (compared to experienced) components of regret uniquely predicted well-being outcomes, suggesting that predicting more affective regret coincides with lower well-being. In Study 2, forecasting errors in overall regret were eliminated by asking participants to focus on cognitive elements of regret prior to forecasting.


Regret Affective forecasting Emotion Well-being Motivation 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

Tonya M. Buchanan declares that she has no conflict of interest. Joshua Buchanan declares that he has no conflict of interest. Kylie Kadey declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCentral Washington UniversityEllensburgUSA

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