Choosing between options associated with past and future regret

Yaniv Shani*, Shai Danziger, Marcel Zeelenberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


People sometimes choose between options associated with already-missed and to-be-missed counterfactuals, or put differently, between past and future regret. We find that these objectively irrelevant associations systematically sway peoples' choices. Results show participants prefer options associated with past promotions (Studies 1-3), and they experience more regret and feel more responsible for missing a future promotion (Studies 1 and 2). Study 2 also shows that participants' preference for products associated with a past miss decreases when they know they will not encounter the future miss (promotion). Study 3 shows this preference also decreases when the product is utilized before the future miss becomes available. Finally, in a non-promotion context, Study 4 demonstrates that people distance themselves from a future miss when they are responsible for the miss but not when another person is responsible for it. These findings are related to regret, inaction inertia and the psychology of discounts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-114
Number of pages8
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Counterfactuals
  • Future regret
  • Missed opportunities
  • Past regret
  • Promotions
  • Responsibility


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