Presentation Title

Positive Alternative Outcomes Increase Counterfactual Affect With No Moderator Effects

Format of Presentation

Poster to be presented the Friday of the conference

Abstract

Following negative experiences, individuals commonly engage in counterfactual thinking (thinking about different outcomes) to make sense of an event. We aimed to replicate Boninger et al.’s research on counterfactual thinking, which employed a story-reading paradigm to test the influence of outcome change, temporal focus, salience of learning, and Consideration of Future Consequences on ratings of negative emotion. They found that feelings of regret and self-blame could be ameliorated when individuals focused on the future, were prompted to learn from the experience, and had a trait tendency to consider future consequences after reading a positive alternative outcome. The present study was completed by two hundred and three undergraduate psychology students on a device of their choice. Participants read one of two scenarios (outcome change or no change) describing an athlete losing a race. Temporal focus and salience of learning were manipulated, and participants completed measures of consideration of future consequences and counterfactual emotion. Consistent with the original research, results indicated a main effect of outcome change. There was a significant interaction between outcome change, temporal focus, and salience of learning on ratings of feeling bad. No other effects were significant. The findings highlight difficulties with replicating psychological research. In contrast to the original study, more stringent manipulation checks, online delivery of the study, and questionable relevance of the scenario to today’s participants may have contributed to lower engagement. Future research would benefit from considering the challenges of conducting contemporary replications of past studies.

Department

Psychology

Faculty Advisor

Catherine Ortner

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Positive Alternative Outcomes Increase Counterfactual Affect With No Moderator Effects

Following negative experiences, individuals commonly engage in counterfactual thinking (thinking about different outcomes) to make sense of an event. We aimed to replicate Boninger et al.’s research on counterfactual thinking, which employed a story-reading paradigm to test the influence of outcome change, temporal focus, salience of learning, and Consideration of Future Consequences on ratings of negative emotion. They found that feelings of regret and self-blame could be ameliorated when individuals focused on the future, were prompted to learn from the experience, and had a trait tendency to consider future consequences after reading a positive alternative outcome. The present study was completed by two hundred and three undergraduate psychology students on a device of their choice. Participants read one of two scenarios (outcome change or no change) describing an athlete losing a race. Temporal focus and salience of learning were manipulated, and participants completed measures of consideration of future consequences and counterfactual emotion. Consistent with the original research, results indicated a main effect of outcome change. There was a significant interaction between outcome change, temporal focus, and salience of learning on ratings of feeling bad. No other effects were significant. The findings highlight difficulties with replicating psychological research. In contrast to the original study, more stringent manipulation checks, online delivery of the study, and questionable relevance of the scenario to today’s participants may have contributed to lower engagement. Future research would benefit from considering the challenges of conducting contemporary replications of past studies.