Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 46–54

Praise for regret: People value regret above other negative emotions

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11031-008-9082-4

Cite this article as:
Saffrey, C., Summerville, A. & Roese, N.J. Motiv Emot (2008) 32: 46. doi:10.1007/s11031-008-9082-4


What do people think about the emotion of regret? Recent demonstrations of the psychological benefits of regret have been framed against an assumption that most people find regret to be aversive, both when experienced but also when recalled later. Two studies explored lay evaluations of regret experiences, revealing them to be largely favorable rather than unfavorable. Study 1 demonstrated that regret, but not other negative emotions, was dominated by positive more than negative evaluations. In both studies 1 and 2, although participants saw a great deal of benefit from their negative emotions, regret stood out as particularly beneficial. Indeed, in study 2, regret was seen to be the most beneficial of 12 negative emotions on all five functions of: making sense of past experiences, facilitating approach behaviors, facilitating avoidance behaviors, gaining insights into the self, and in preserving social harmony. Moreover, in study 2, individuals made self-serving ascriptions of regret, reporting greater regret experiences for themselves than for others. In short, people value their regrets substantially more than they do other negative emotions.


Regret Counterfactual Affect Emotion 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colleen Saffrey
    • 1
  • Amy Summerville
    • 2
  • Neal J. Roese
    • 2
  1. 1.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA

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