Regrets Caused by Action vs. Inaction

8 responses

  1. Charlie
    February 2, 2013

    Obligatory Orbital reference:

    link to

    (and if anyone knows where they got that sample from, please share :)

  2. H. Lee
    February 2, 2013

    A couple of footnotes in the corresponding set of papers should be noted. I quote:

    “1. We also administered measures of self-esteem, subjective well-being, need for control, and approach/avoidance tendencies. However, these were not related to the main variables of interest and hence are not discussed further.

    3. Household income was also measured. It was highly correlated with education level (p<.001) but did not moderate regret effects and is therefore not discussed further.
    4. It is possible that regrets were most likely to fall in the domains of romance and family because individuals may simply experience more such events than falling in other domains. As such, our results reveal only the relative frequency of regrets from different life domains, not whether specific life domains have the capacity to evoke regrets with greater frequency or intensity."

    So some other takeaways from the paper are:
    1. Your self-esteem, well-being, need for control and tendency to approach or avoid (introversion) do not matter in this regard. Unlike many other measures, your personality doesn't seem to matter significantly.
    2. Money also doesn't matter.
    3. If you learned about something which you should prioritize, you should keep in mind that the effect from romance and family comes from the universality of romance and family in nearly all human ambition. There are people who don't care about education at all, in any way, shape or form, but it may be the case that there are fewer people who don't care about family and romance, so we may get the effect we're seeing from there.

  3. Chris Yeh
    February 4, 2013

    I tend to fear the regret of inaction more…though I think this is what leads me to try to do too many things!

  4. Dave Carlson
    February 5, 2013

    I agree with Chris that I end up taking on too many things because I fear regrets of inaction.

    I also think that it’s far easier to evaluate the alternative for “action regrets,” because if the action hadn’t occurred, you’d basically be returning to how things were prior to the action being taken. That’s a known quantity.

    For “inaction regrets,” it’s a lot harder to evaluate what would have happened, which may be the reason that those regrets tend to be more lingering and long-lasting. It takes a fair amount of reflection and consideration to consider how things would be different if one had taken action.

    Interesting post. Good food for thought, as always :)

  5. phd dissertation
    March 6, 2013

    ill, that pilot’s karma must have been with him because the quick thinking controller in the tower in Cork airport realised what was happening and reverted to using SMS text messages to the pilot instead to talk him through approach and landing, using a direct radar fix on the plane and a visual confirmation of the ‘wheels down’ on a fly-by before finally giving the pilot the ‘go’ order to land.

  6. Jane Briscoe
    March 25, 2013

    I remember reading about a study one time of residents in a seniors’ home. When asked what they regretted most in their lives, overwhelmingly the answer was, I didn’t take enough risks.

  7. Tamela Lewis
    April 25, 2013

    Wow! Great study! I never really thought about it this way. Thanks for sharing such great content with us. I will now have to ponder ;-)

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    December 20, 2013

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