Regret causes ego-depletion and finding benefits in the regrettable events alleviates ego-depletion

J Gen Psychol. 2014;141(3):169-206. doi: 10.1080/00221309.2014.884053.


This study tested the hypotheses that experiencing regret would result in ego-depletion, while finding benefits (i.e., "silver linings") in the regret-eliciting events counteracted the ego-depletion effect. Using a modified gambling paradigm (Experiments 1, 2, and 4) and a retrospective method (Experiments 3 and 5), five experiments were conducted to induce regret. Results revealed that experiencing regret undermined performance on subsequent tasks, including a paper-and-pencil calculation task (Experiment 1), a Stroop task (Experiment 2), and a mental arithmetic task (Experiment 3). Furthermore, finding benefits in the regret-eliciting events improved subsequent performance (Experiments 4 and 5), and this improvement was mediated by participants' perceived vitality (Experiment 4). This study extended the depletion model of self-regulation by considering emotions with self-conscious components (in our case, regret). Moreover, it provided a comprehensive understanding of how people felt and performed after experiencing regret and after finding benefits in the events that caused the regret.

Keywords: benefit-finding; ego-depletion; regret; self-consciousness; significance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ego*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reaction Time
  • Self Concept
  • Stroop Test
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult