Date of Award

12-1992

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Howard R. Pollio

Committee Members

Leonard Handler, Ron Hopson, Marianne Woodside

Abstract

The Purpose of this study was to investigate the human experience of regret in order to discover and describe the essential nature of the experience. A phenomenological approach was taken, employing a dialogical interview method. Twelve participants volunteered for an unstructured, open-ended interview in which they were asked to describe their personal experiences of regret.

Analysis of the interview transcripts by thematizing significant statements revealed three essential themes of the experience of regret. The experience of regret is comprised of opportunities/consequences, blaming oneself, and looking back/looking forward.

Opportunities consist of an awareness of a choice, feelings of uncertainty, and a sense of expectation or hope. Consequences include negative results, missed opportunities, and feelings of finality, loss and powerlessness.

In blaming oneself, one feels responsible for making the decision, for its consequences, and for avoiding the awareness of a choice or suppressing uncertainty. Participants struggled with taking blame and attempted to avoid it even during the immediate experience of regret.

Participants looked back on their decision, recognizing they should have done otherwise. They also looked forward down the path of the unchosen alternative. In doing so, they felt powerless to change the situation and wished they could choose again.

The grounds of the experience of regret were revealed to be those of self and time. Participants also described means of resolving regret, including accepting their decision and their situation, and learning or changing as a result of the experience.

Implications of these findings for cognitive, psychodynamic, and existential perspectives were considered. Some suggestions for future research also were offered.

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