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Different reasons for choosing between the lesser of two evils: Implications for counterfactual thoughts, regret, and choice of action

Conference Paper


Abstract


  • Recent research on counterfactual reasoning (i.e., imagining alternative antecedents to an event to reason about “what might have been”) suggests that an action performed to fulfill an obligation is less mentally mutable than the same action performed to serve one‟s own desires, even if the same bad outcome ensues. Further, when a potential bad outcome is made salient, counterfactual thoughts about it are more accessible, thus prompting a choice of action that prevents that salient outcome. However, little was known about the potential joint effects of event saliency and reasons for action on counterfactual reasoning, judgements of regret and future behaviour. In this study, undergraduates (N=40) read fictitious scenarios to decide between two competing courses of actions, both of which could result in a bad outcome. Reasons for action and saliency of potential outcomes were manipulated factorially. Participants provided judgements of regret about the highlighted potential outcome and their choice of action. Reasons for action showed the predicted effect on judgement of regret but not on choice of action, whereas event saliency only had the predicted effect on choice of action but not regret. The implications of these findings for cognitive models of counterfactual reasoning will be discussed.

UOW Authors


  •   Woods, Lisa (external author)
  •   Chan, Amy

Publication Date


  • 2009

Citation


  • Woods, L. & Chan, A. YC. (2009). Different reasons for choosing between the lesser of two evils: Implications for counterfactual thoughts, regret, and choice of action. In N. Voudouris & V. Mrowinski (Eds.), Combined Abstracts of 2009 Australian Psychology Conferences (pp. 59-59). Melbourne, VIC: Australian Psychological Society Ltd.

Start Page


  • 59

End Page


  • 59

Abstract


  • Recent research on counterfactual reasoning (i.e., imagining alternative antecedents to an event to reason about “what might have been”) suggests that an action performed to fulfill an obligation is less mentally mutable than the same action performed to serve one‟s own desires, even if the same bad outcome ensues. Further, when a potential bad outcome is made salient, counterfactual thoughts about it are more accessible, thus prompting a choice of action that prevents that salient outcome. However, little was known about the potential joint effects of event saliency and reasons for action on counterfactual reasoning, judgements of regret and future behaviour. In this study, undergraduates (N=40) read fictitious scenarios to decide between two competing courses of actions, both of which could result in a bad outcome. Reasons for action and saliency of potential outcomes were manipulated factorially. Participants provided judgements of regret about the highlighted potential outcome and their choice of action. Reasons for action showed the predicted effect on judgement of regret but not on choice of action, whereas event saliency only had the predicted effect on choice of action but not regret. The implications of these findings for cognitive models of counterfactual reasoning will be discussed.

UOW Authors


  •   Woods, Lisa (external author)
  •   Chan, Amy

Publication Date


  • 2009

Citation


  • Woods, L. & Chan, A. YC. (2009). Different reasons for choosing between the lesser of two evils: Implications for counterfactual thoughts, regret, and choice of action. In N. Voudouris & V. Mrowinski (Eds.), Combined Abstracts of 2009 Australian Psychology Conferences (pp. 59-59). Melbourne, VIC: Australian Psychological Society Ltd.

Start Page


  • 59

End Page


  • 59