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The role of regret and responsibility in decision-making

Nicolle, A.L.; (2010) The role of regret and responsibility in decision-making. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Regret is a cognitively mediated, multifaceted emotion engendered by thoughts of how things might have been better had we behaved differently. The causes, experience and behavioural impact of regret have been widely studied by psychologists. However, research into the neural basis of regret has been motivated primarily by economic approaches, which often reduce regret to such a simplistic construct that it loses many of its interesting qualities. This thesis attempts to build a bridge between recent functional imaging studies of regret and a more established psychological literature that addresses the subjective content and motivational impacts of regret. The thesis aims to provide a deeper understanding of the experience of regret, the factors necessary for it to be elicited, and its behavioural impact. Using functional imaging, I also provide new insights into the neural mechanisms underlying each of these levels. In the first two studies, I provide evidence for a key role of responsibility in the experience and neuronal representation of regret, and in the efficacy of learning and decision-making more generally. In three further studies, I explore the immediate motivational impact of the experience of regret, and contrast findings with conventional models that address the impact of anticipated regret on choice. Specifically, I provide evidence that experienced regret encourages decision inertia, a bias to repeat, rather than avoid, a previous choice. These studies indicate that conventional models of the experiential content of regret, and its motivational effect, traditionally employed by economists and cognitive neuroscientists alike, do not provide a full description of behavioural responses to regret. I go on to consider multiple motivational effects of regret, including those (not always beneficial) responses through which individuals tend to manage and regulate aversive emotions.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:The role of regret and responsibility in decision-making
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience

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