The Experience of Regret: What, When, and Why

Thomas Gilovich*, Victoria Husted Medvec

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

406 Scopus citations


This article reviews evidence indicating that there is a temporal pattern to the experience of regret. Actions, or errors of commission, generate more regret in the short term; but inactions, or errors of omission, produce more regret in the long run. The authors contend that this temporal pattern is multiply determined, and present a framework to organize the divergent causal mechanisms that are responsible for it. In particular, this article documents the importance of psychological processes that (a) decrease the pain of regrettable action over time, (b) bolster the pain of regrettable inaction over time, and (c) differentially affect the cognitive availability of these two types of regrets. Both the functional and cultural origins of how people think about regret are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-395
Number of pages17
JournalPsychological Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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