Emotional reactions, such as regret and disappointment, are associated with the comparison of an obtained outcome with what might have been. Past research revealed that these counterfactual comparisons affect one's pleasure with the outcome, at least in the short term. However, whether such effects are transient or long lasting is unknown. The present research explores the time course of outcome evaluation, by eliciting ratings of pleasure with a specific real choice at two points in time. In three experimental studies, pleasure with a small gift immediately following the gift's selection was compared to pleasure with the gift 4 to 8 weeks later. The results indicate that satisfaction with a chosen outcome, unlike satisfaction with a randomly assigned one, decreases in the long term. These findings are compatible with the assumption that under some conditions the impact of forgone options on the evaluation of decision outcomes does not diminish, and may even increase with time. A fourth study, a survey of people's retrospective evaluation of their choice of undergraduate major, yielded compatible results.
- Decision evaluation