A new study has found that humans are poor at predicting their emotions after decision-making.
Behavioral research over the past 15 years has shown that after taking a decision, people tend to anticipate that they may regret their choices.
The new study, by the University College London researchers, has answered how accurate are people in their anticipations of regret and of other post-decisional emotions, such as disappointment.
In the first of two experiments, the researchers made the participants take part in a two-person negotiation for money that would allow the researchers to observe negotiation style as well as measure how much regret the participants would feel if their tactics failed.
The team found that participants across the board tended to over-predict their post-negotiation regret and disappointment if their transaction was rejected. However, those who negotiated reasonably (i.e., less aggressive or "greedy") were less prone to experience regret than the latter, as they had provided sensible offers.
In the second experiment, participants who had just completed a course assignment were asked to predict how they would feel if the grades that they received for their assignments exceeded, matched, or were lower than their expectations. On average, participants received higher than expected grades. However, the researchers found that participants over-predicted the rejoicing and somewhat under-predicted the regret that they experienced when they received the grades.
In the light of such misprediction of emotions, Nick Sevdalis and Nigel Harvey, who authored the study, argue that when people make decisions they should perhaps discount the regret, rejoicing, and other post-decisional emotions that they anticipate will be associated with potential outcomes arising from those decisions.
The study is published in the August issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.