Errors in Affective Forecasting: Contrasting Anticipated and Experienced Regret after Group Failure versus Individual Failure

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Stager, Pamela
affective forecasting , anticipated regret , groups
This dissertation contributes to a growing literature on affective forecasting showing that people are often inaccurate when predicting their future emotions, particularly the emotion of regret (Wilson & Gilbert, 2003). In the current program of research I explored the differences in the anticipated and experienced regret of participants who worked (or imagined working) either alone or as part of a group. In Experiment One I demonstrated that participants anticipated more regret from failing a task when alone than from failing a task that when working as part of a group. I speculated that this occurs because working with a group allows one to blame others for a failure, thus reducing one’s own regret. In Experiment Two I demonstrated that although participants anticipated more regret from an individual relative to a group failure, the regret they actually experienced is equivalent in these conditions. I hypothesised that this is because the psychological immune system (Gilbert, Pinel, Wilson, Blumberg, & Wheatley, 1998) works hard to reduce the regret of the participants who worked alone to levels matching that of the participants who worked in groups. I also demonstrated that this psychological immune system takes time to reduce regret differences in levels of regret were found between participants in the group and alone conditions when participants reported their regret immediately, but when regret was reported after a delay, these differences were no longer found. In Experiment Three I ruled out a potential confound by demonstrating that the differences between Experiments One and Two were not due to participants thinking of different time frames while reporting their regret. In Experiments Four and Five I extended my program of research by investigating whether the anticipated and experienced regret that is caused by failing a task varies depending on whether one is working with in-group or out-group partners. I found that while participants anticipate more regret from failing a task with an in-group compared to an out-group partner, the regret they ultimately experience is not affected by the group status of their partner. Implications and future directions are discussed.
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