Do children who experience regret make better decisions? A developmental study of the behavioral consequences of regret


To date there has been little research investigating the assumption that experienced regret influences future decision making. Three novel experiments examined the relationship between children’s ability to experience regret and the quality of their subsequent decision making. Children chose between two options on Day 1, discovered the non-chosen option was more attractive, and rated their feelings about their choice. On Day 2, to assess choice switching, children were presented with the same choice. Experiment 1 found regret and adaptive choice switching emerged around 7 years of age. Experiments 2 and 3, found that 6-and 7-year-olds who experienced regret on Day 1, engaged in profitable decision making significantly more often than those who did not experience the emotion. These findings remained even when age and verbal ability were controlled for. These findings suggest that the experience of regret influences similar future decision making in childhood.

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