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Anticipated Regret


Explanations > Thinking > Lazy Thinking > Anticipated Regret

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



Regret is the negative feeling we experience when we think about past actions (or inactions) where we wish we had chosen differently.

Anticipated regret is the experience right now of the regret that we think we may feel in the future, typically about decisions we are currently considering making. This unpleasant feeling may well affect our decisions, sometimes wisely and sometimes less so.


A customer cannot decide which coat to buy, so they buy neither.

A drug addict knows they will feel bad the next day, yet the urge to indulge now is overpowering.


Anticipated regret is commonly experiences when considering risks, especially when we are naturally cautious or tend to think negatively. It can lead us to become risk averse and consequently can paralyze us. And yet inaction also has its own risks and much bad can come from doing nothing. We gain from taking risks, and the greater skill is in seeing these realistically, seeking to reduce their probability and being prepared should they happen.

Anticipated regret may be dulled if the person thinks little about the future or where they discount it, effectively turning down the intensity of future thoughts and feelings that might dissuade unwise choices today. Knowing that we may regret something can help us to make wise choices, especially when we are biased by strong emotions such as desire or fear.

Buyer's remorse is the regret customers feel when the wish they had not bought something. We can also experience anticipated buyer's remorse when we are considering a purchase now. It is this fear, that we will regret the purchase, that puts off many customers from buying. If you can reduce this, you will sell much more.

So what?

In persuasion, you can trigger anticipated regret by painting a negative picture of the future that is linked to the other person's current plans. This can be reframe to anticipated pleasure when they adopt your suggestions instead.

In your own thinking, beware the paralysis that anticipated regret can bring. Think instead of real probabilities and your ability to solve problems and recover from issues.

See also

Regret, Fear, Anticipated Pleasure, Regret (thinking)


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