Counterfactual thinking and regulatory focus: Implications for action versus inaction and sufficiency versus necessity

Neal J. Roese*, Taekyun Hur, Ginger L. Pennington

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations

Abstract

Counterfactual thinking is associated with regulatory focus in a way that explains previous empirical incongruities, such as whether additive counterfactuals (mutations of inactions) occur more or less frequently than subtractive counterfactuals (mutations of actions). In Experiment 1, regulatory focus moderated this pattern, in that additive counterfactuals were activated by promotion failure, whereas subtractive counterfactuals were activated by prevention failure. In Experiment 2, additive counterfactuals evoked a promotion focus and expressed causal sufficiency, whereas subtractive counterfactuals evoked a prevention focus and expressed causal necessity. In Experiment 3, dejection activated additive counterfactuals, whereas agitation activated subtractive counterfactuals. These findings illuminate the interconnections among counterfactual thinking, motivation, and goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1120
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume77
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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