Conference Intl. Society for Research on Emotion location:Kyoto, Japan date:July 2011
Feeling-is-for-doing theory claims that people’s feelings have a high predictive power for their behavior. A piece of evidence cited by adherents of the theory is the difference between regret and disappointment. Recall studies have shown that feeling regret is associated with a tendency to actively repair the negative situation, whereas feeling disappointment is associated with a tendency to respond passively. We hypothesized that these action tendencies are more dependent on the underlying situation than on specific feelings. Past research has shown that regret is typically elicited by self-caused situations with high coping potential (high control over the situation after its occurrence), whereas disappointment is elicited by circumstances-caused situations with low coping potential. In two studies we disentangled these two variables experimentally (Study 1) and statistically (Study 2). We found that the cause of the event was crucial for differentiating feelings of regret from feelings of disappointment, whereas coping potential did not differentiate these feelings. In addition we found the opposite pattern for action tendencies: The cause of the event did not differentiate between the tendency to repair versus remaining passive, whereas coping potential did. Furthermore, either statistically or experimentally controlling for coping potential eradicated the unique relation between regret and repairing. Hence we conclude that in our study different feelings did not predict different behaviors, whereas different appraisals of the situation (at least in terms of coping potential) did. We advocate a model in which appraisal directly guides behavior without an intervening step of feeling.