Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Every day, people both make decisions and regret decisions. Whether it is second-guessing a major life choice like one’s career or bemoaning the purchase of a particular shirt, the phenomenon of regret is familiar and tangible. It is important to learn more about this psychological occurrence in order to help people avoid regret by making better decisions in the future (Das & Kerr, 2010; Pieters & Zeelenberg, 2007). Learning about regret necessitates both learning how the inherent mechanism of regret works, and also what external circumstances affect the degree of the regret. Does being distracted on a cell phone while shopping at the grocery store make you more or less regretful? Can other disturbances actually help you make more satisfactory decisions? We hypothesize that the less attention an individual dedicates to a decision, the less regret he or she will experience.

In this research paper we will explore the intersection of two large bodies of research on the topics of cognitive load theory and decision regret and investigate whether individuals subject to a cognitive load during a decision will subsequently experience more or less decision regret. Before discussing our experiment, though, we will conduct an in-depth research analysis on each of these topics. This literature review will include a general introduction to cognitive load theory and regret, various frameworks through which to understand both topics, and some practical applications and implications for each body of research. We will then synthesize the information and construct the hypothesis that an individual under a cognitive load will experience less regret than an unrestrained individual. Following that, we will go through the mechanics of the experiment and present the results of the data obtained. Lastly, we will discuss the results and develop some conclusions.


cognitive load, memory, decision regret



Date Posted: 28 October 2014


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