Thinking About Regret: Number of Memories and Ease of Retrieval Influence Judgments About Regret

Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, Vol. 1, No. 4, 2014, pp.329-338

UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2015-38

11 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2015

See all articles by Robert Michael

Robert Michael

Victoria University of Wellington

Gabriel Braniff

Victoria University of Wellington

Maryanne Garry

Victoria University of Wellington, School of Psychology

Elizabeth F. Loftus

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior; University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: March 31, 2015

Abstract

Do you have many regrets from last year? To answer that question, you might start searching your memory and accumulating evidence. But your answer might not depend on how many regrets you remember. Instead, it might depend on how easy it feels to remember them. People often think that they have a larger pool of experiences to sample from when remembering feels easy than when remembering feels difficult. Thus, the relative ease of remembering can give us a quick indication of how many experiences we have had. Do people also rely on this feeling when thinking about their regrets? Across 3 experiments, we asked people to remember easy or difficult numbers of regrets from the past year, and then to rate how much regret they had for that year. Contrary to our predictions and the literature, we found that people relied on both number and ease: after remembering a small but easy number of regretted experiences, they rated the past year as less full of regret than others who remembered a large but difficult number. This pattern of results remained even when we drew people’s attention to the ease or difficulty of remembering. These results add nuance to the published literature, and suggest that when we think about how many regrets we have, what matters most is quantity and missed opportunity.

Keywords: ease-of-retrieval, memory, regret

Suggested Citation

Michael, Robert and Braniff, Gabriel and Garry, Maryanne and Loftus, Elizabeth F., Thinking About Regret: Number of Memories and Ease of Retrieval Influence Judgments About Regret (March 31, 2015). Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, Vol. 1, No. 4, 2014, pp.329-338, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2015-38, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2588161

Robert Michael

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

Gabriel Braniff

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

Maryanne Garry

Victoria University of Wellington, School of Psychology ( email )

Room 508, Easterfield Building
Kelburn Pde, Kelbun Campus
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand
04 463 5769 (Phone)
04 463 5402 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/psyc/staff/maryanne-garry.aspx

Elizabeth F. Loftus (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Psychology and Social Behavior ( email )

4201 Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-7085
United States

University of California, Irvine School of Law

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92697-1000
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
21
Abstract Views
766
PlumX Metrics