At least I tried: The relationship between regulatory focus and regret following action vs. Inaction

Adi Itzkin, Dina Van Dijk, Ofer H. Azar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Regret is an unpleasant feeling that may arise following decisions that ended poorly, and may affect the decision-maker's well-being and future decision making. Some studies show that a decision to act leads to greater regret than a decision not to act when both resulted in failure, because the latter is usually the norm. In some cases, when the norm is to act, this pattern is reversed. We suggest that the decision maker's regulatory focus, affects regret after action or inaction. Specifically, promotion-focused individuals, who tend to be more proactive, view action as more normal than prevention-focused individuals, and therefore experience regulatory fit when an action decision is made. Hence, we hypothesized that promotion-focused individuals will feel less regret than prevention-focused individuals when a decision to act ended poorly. In addition, we hypothesized that a trigger for change implied in the situation, decreases the level of regret following action. We tested our hypotheses on a sample of 330 participants enrolled in an online survey. The participants received six decision scenarios, in which they were asked to evaluate the level of regret following action and inaction. Individual regulatory focus was measured by two different scales. Promotion-focused individuals attributed less regret than prevention-focused individuals to action decisions. Regret following inaction was not affected by regulatory focus. In addition, a trigger for change decreases regret following action. Orthodox people tend to attribute more regret than non-orthodox to a person who made an action decision. The results contribute to the literature by showing that not only the situation but also the decision maker's orientation affects the regret after action vs. inaction.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1684
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 27 Oct 2016


  • Action
  • Inaction
  • Prevention focus
  • Promotion focus
  • Regret
  • Regulatory fit
  • Regulatory focus

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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