Counterfactual-seeking: The scenic overlook of the road not taken
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Decision-makers faced with an opportunity to learn the outcome of a foregone alternative must balance anticipated regret, should that information be unfavorable, with the potential benefits of this information in reducing experienced regret. Counterfactualseeking, the choice to learn more about foregone alternatives, may be a functional, regretregulating strategy for individuals already experiencing regret. Counterfactual-seeking increases in response to dissatisfying outcomes (Studies 1 & 2). Counterfactual-seeking is generally able to reduce dissatisfaction (Study 2), regardless of whether individuals personally chose to view this information or were randomly assigned to do so (Study 3). Moreover, both imaginative (versus factual) thoughts about the foregone option and upward (versus downward) counterfactual thoughts play a role in this improvement in satisfaction (Study 4). Regret thus has a complex influence in how individuals engage with counterfactual information.