IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Regret in One-Shot and Recurrent Decisions: A Cautionary Tale


  • Alex Imas
  • Diego Lamé
  • Alistair J. Wilson


Under regret theory, decision-makers derive utility both from the outcome of their chosen action and the counterfactual. Evidence for anticipatory regret aversion has been found in oneshot settings, with ”regret lotteries” that always reveal outcomes, as a counterfactual on non-entry, being priced higher than comparable standard lotteries that only realize outcomes for entrants. However, as anticipation and realization of regret necessarily interact in dynamic settings, the predictions of regret theory for repeated decisions are far from clear. Indeed while our one-shot experimental data corroborate the previous findings, data from a sequence of decisions show the reverse, with regret lotteries priced lower than standard lotteries and their certainty equivalents. Given the recent literature on the use of regret lotteries as incentives, our results suggest that while these lotteries can be effective for motivating one-time decisions, their benefits as a repeated incentive is less than clear. More generally, the paper illustrates the issues that can arise when extrapolating behavioral effects from one-shot to recurrent settings.

Suggested Citation

  • Alex Imas & Diego Lamé & Alistair J. Wilson, 2016. "Regret in One-Shot and Recurrent Decisions: A Cautionary Tale," CESifo Working Paper Series 5939, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5939

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1982. "Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 805-824, December.
    2. Zeelenberg, M., 1999. "Anticipated regret, expected feedback and behavioral decision-making," Other publications TiSEM 38371d1b-31fd-45b0-860f-b, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    3. Saugato Datta & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2014. "Behavioral Design: A New Approach to Development Policy," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(1), pages 7-35, March.
    4. Saugato Datta & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2014. "Behavioral Design: A New Approach to Development Policy," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 60(1), pages 7-35, March.
    5. Paul Viefers & Philipp Strack, 2014. "Too Proud to Stop: Regret in Dynamic Decisions," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1401, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Felix Koelle & Tom Lane & Daniele Nosenzo & Chris Starmer, 2017. "Nudging the electorate: what works and why?," Discussion Papers 2017-16, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.

    More about this item


    regret aversion; separability; incentives;


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_5939. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Klaus Wohlrabe). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.