The development of children's regret and relief

DP Weisberg, Sarah Beck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research found that children first experience regret at 5 years and relief at 7. In two experiments, we explored three possibilities for this lag: (1) relief genuinely develops later than regret; (2) tests of relief have previously been artefactually difficult; or (3) evidence for regret resulted from false positives. In Experiment 1 (N=162 4- to 7-year-olds) children chose one of two cards that led to winning or losing tokens. Children rated their happiness then saw a better (regret) or worse (relief) alternative. Children re-rated their happiness. Regret after winning was first experienced at 4, regret after losing and relief after winning were experienced at 5 years and relief after losing at 7 years. Experiment 2 (N=297 5- to 8-year-olds) used a similar task but manipulated children's responsibility for the outcome. Greater responsibility for the outcome resulted in a greater likelihood of an experience of regret and relief. Results support that previous tests of relief were artefactually difficult and regret and relief are experienced earlier than previously thought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)820-35
Number of pages16
JournalCognition & emotion
Issue number5
Early online date14 Nov 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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