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Avoiding Future Regret in Purchase-Timing Decisions


  • Cooke, Alan D J
  • Meyvis, Tom
  • Schwartz, Alan


When deciding when to make a purchase, people often compare their outcomes to those that would have occurred had they purchased earlier or later. In this article, we examine how pre- and postpurchase comparisons affect regret and satisfaction, and whether consumers learn to avoid decisions that result in regret. In the first two experiments, we show that information learned after the purchase has a greater impact on satisfaction than information learned before the purchase. In addition, negative price comparisons have a greater impact on satisfaction than positive comparisons. These results imply that if consumers who receive postpurchase information wish to avoid future feelings of regret, they should defer their purchases longer. Our second two experiments demonstrate this phenomenon: Subjects who were exposed to postchoice information set higher decision thresholds, consistent with the minimization of future regret. Paradoxically, providing subjects with additional postchoice information resulted in decreased average earnings, suggesting that consumers may try to avoid future regret even when doing so conflicts with expected value maximization. Copyright 2001 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Cooke, Alan D J & Meyvis, Tom & Schwartz, Alan, 2001. " Avoiding Future Regret in Purchase-Timing Decisions," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(4), pages 447-459, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jconrs:v:27:y:2001:i:4:p:447-59

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    Cited by:

    1. Javad Nasiry & Ioana Popescu, 2012. "Advance Selling When Consumers Regret," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(6), pages 1160-1177, June.
    2. Vincze, János & Koltay, Gábor, 2009. "Fogyasztói döntések a viselkedési közgazdaságtan szemszögéből
      [Consumer decisions from the angle of behavioural economics]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(6), pages 495-525.
    3. Inman, J.J. & Zeelenberg, M., 2002. "Regret in repeat purchase versus switching decisions : The attenuating role of decision justifiability," Other publications TiSEM 44060120-bd30-40e0-a97f-f, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    4. repec:spr:irpnmk:v:14:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s12208-017-0183-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Rong Chen & Jianmin Jia, 2012. "Regret and performance uncertainty in consumer repeat choice," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 353-365, March.
    6. repec:eee:touman:v:32:y:2011:i:6:p:1397-1406 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. DeTienne, Dawn R. & Shepherd, Dean A. & De Castro, Julio O., 2008. "The fallacy of "only the strong survive": The effects of extrinsic motivation on the persistence decisions for under-performing firms," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 528-546, September.
    8. repec:eee:jouret:v:87:y:2011:i:2:p:242-251 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Suzanne O’Curry Fogel & Thomas Berry, 2010. "The Disposition Effect and Individual Investor Decisions: The Roles of Regret and Counterfactual Alternatives," Chapters,in: Handbook of Behavioral Finance, chapter 4 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. repec:eee:ijrema:v:35:y:2018:i:1:p:81-99 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Michenaud, Sébastien & Solnik, Bruno, 2008. "Applying regret theory to investment choices: Currency hedging decisions," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 677-694, September.
    12. Keaveney, Susan M. & Huber, Frank & Herrmann, Andreas, 2007. "A model of buyer regret: Selected prepurchase and postpurchase antecedents with consequences for the brand and the channel," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 60(12), pages 1207-1215, December.

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