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The lure of counterfactual curiosity: people incur a cost to experience regret

Fitzgibbon, L., Komiya, A. and Murayama, K. (2020) The lure of counterfactual curiosity: people incur a cost to experience regret. Psychological Science. ISSN 0956-7976 (In Press)

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Abstract/Summary

After making a decision, it is sometimes possible to seek information about how things would be if one had acted otherwise. We investigated the lure of this counterfactual information, namely counterfactual curiosity. In a set of five experiments (total N = 150) we used an adapted Balloon Analogue Risk Task with varying costs of information. People were willing to seek information about how much they could have won, at a cost, and even though it had little utility and a negative emotional impact (i.e. it led to regret). We explore the downstream effects of seeking information on emotion, behavior adjustment, and ongoing performance, showing that it has little or even negative performance benefit. We also replicated the findings with a large-sample (N = 361) preregistered experiment that excluded possible alternative explanations. This suggests that information about counterfactual alternatives has a strong motivational lure – people simply cannot help seeking it.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics (CINN)
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Department of Psychology
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Neuroscience
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Language and Cognition
Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences > Perception and Action
ID Code:91911
Publisher:Sage Publications

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