Regrets, I’ve had a few (but not too few to mention)

The ‘Regrets of the Typical American’ have been analysed in a new study that not only looks at what US citizens regret most, but provides some clues for those wanting to know whether it is better to regret something you haven’t done, or regret something you have.

The research has just been published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and was carried out by psychologists Mike Morrison and Neal Roese who used random dialling to call people and survey them about a troubling regret.

As blues singers have suggested for years, love tops the list (click for larger version):

Previous studies on regret have talked to college students who are probably not ideal for this sort of research as they tend to be quite young and, quite frankly, really haven’t fucked up enough to give a good idea of what the average person laments about their life.

This was the first study to survey a representative sample of all ages, incomes and education levels and although love topped the list, there were some interesting differences in the details.

Women, who tend to value social relationships more than men, have more regrets of love (romance, family) compared to men. Conversely, men were more likely to have work-related (career, education) regrets. Those who lack either higher education or a romantic relationship hold the most regrets in precisely these areas.

Americans with high levels of education had the most career-related regrets. Apparently, the more education obtained, the more acute may be the sensitivity to aspiration and fulfillment. Moreover, the youngest and least-educated people in our sample, who most likely possess the greatest capability of fixing their regrets, were indeed the most likely to provide fixable regrets.

The study also found that regrets about things you haven’t done were equally as common as regrets about things you have, no matter how old the person.

The difference between the two is often a psychological one, because we can frame the same regret either way – as regret about an action: ‘If only I had not dropped out of school'; or as a regret about an inaction: ‘If only I had stayed in school’.

Despite the fact that they are practically equivalent, regrets framed as laments about actions were more common and more intense than regrets about inactions, although inaction regrets tended to be longer lasting.

So the question of whether it is better to regret something you haven’t done than regret something you have, might actually be answerable for some people, but we still don’t know how much choice we have over adopting the different views of regrets or whether this is largely determined by the situation.
 

Link to summary of study ‘Regrets of the Typical American’.
Link to write-up on PhysOrg.

2 Comments

  1. Tardigrade
    Posted March 29, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    “Women, who tend to value social relationships” … “regrets of love (romance”

    Do you happen to know why these are labeled “social relationships” as opposed to “interpersonal relationships”?

  2. ryu
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    i’m really curious about the population size and demographic of the sample,
    well, not gonna pay 25 bucks to find out that’s for sure


13 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] A Study on Regret – via Mind Hacks- The ‘Regrets of the Typical American’ have been analysed in a new study that not only looks at what US citizens regret most, but provides some clues for those wanting to know whether it is better to regret something you haven’t done, or regret something you have. […]

  2. […] The study also found that regrets about things you haven’t done were equally as common as regrets about things you have, no matter how old the person. The difference between the two is often a psychological one, because we can frame the same regret either way – as regret about an action: “If only I had not dropped out of school”; or as a regret about an inaction: “If only I had stayed in school.” Despite the fact that they are practically equivalent, regrets framed as laments about actions were more common and more intense than regrets about inactions, although inaction regrets tended to be longer lasting. So the question of whether it is better to regret something you haven’t done than regret something you have, might actually be answerable for some people, but we still don’t know how much choice we have over adopting the different views of regrets or whether this is largely determined by the situation. Source: Mind Hacks […]

  3. […] http://mindhacks.com/2011/03/27/regrets-ive-had-a-few-but-not-too-few-to-mention/ […]

  4. […] 5. What do we regret? […]

  5. […] Mike Morrison and Neal Roese recently published their research about the strange and confusing human feeling of regret. They used random dialing to try and gauge […]

  6. […] [via Gawker < Mindhacks] […]

  7. […] is why I was intrigued by this post in Jezebel (which picked up the story from Mindhacks) about a study that claims to show that Americans have more regrets about love than any other […]

  8. […] Mind Hacks: The research has just been published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science […]

  9. […] Regrets, I’ve had a few (but not too few to mention) (mindhacks.com) […]

  10. […] Mind Hacks: Regrets, I’ve Had a Few (But Not Too Few To Mention) […]

  11. […] that we’re so intent on figuring out WTF is up with our love lives: we don’t ever want this to be us! Although this so wouldn’t be a problem if people just listened to Tim Riggins. […]

  12. […] the Mindhack post, click here. This entry was posted in Emotion, Psychology and tagged love, regret. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  13. […] more and for longer, what you DIDN’T do, more than what you DID DO. I first read about it here and the synopsis is that you are just more haunted by your regrets if you perceive them in that […]

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 23,910 other followers