The Experience of Anticipated Regret in Adolescents in Group Decision Making

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In gambling, the use of anticipated regret has been explored in some studies. A study by Tochkov (2009) investigated the role of anticipated regret in situations of problem and social gambling. This study examined the relationship between anticipated regret and the risk preferences of problem and social gamblers. Essentially, the study identified that a lower sensitivity to anticipated regret resulted in an increased risk-seeking behavior as seen in problem gamblers, thus contributing to the formation of addiction to gambling (Tochkov, 2009). The study also found an inverse relationship between the anticipating of regret and the extent of gambling preferences (Tochkov, 2009).

In individuals who are have weaker gambling preferences, they were better able to anticipate regret, thus behaving in a regret-minimising manner and opted for safer bets rather than riskier ones (Tochkov, 2009). However, Tochkov (2009) discovered that in individuals with stronger gambling preferences, the effect of anticipating regret was reduced, thus enabling to go with the riskier options despite the type of feedback provided for each type of gamble. This shows that the reduced ability of gamblers to anticipate regret caused them to disregard the minimax principle and become more risk-seeking in their behavior. The lower sensitivity to anticipated regret can contribute towards why individuals choose to behave irrationally while making decisions in gambling. This is particularly prominent when the stakes for gambling are raised, as shown when individuals with stronger gambling preferences increasing chose the riskier option when the stakes became higher (Tochkov, 2009). This further explains why adolescents tend to behave in a risk-seeking manner, as they display lesser anticipations of regret and failure to correctly pinpoint the regret-minimizing decision prompts them to behave in a risk-seeking manner (Tochkov, 2009). This study had a major subject pool of adolescents aged 18 – 25, which allowed the results to be generalized across adolescents. The study was mainly conducted on students, which generalizes the results for adolescents. This study highlighted that adolescents may be less able to identify the regret-minimizing option, and a lower consideration for anticipated regret can result in risk-seeking behavioral decisions (Tochkov, 2009). However, the study was unable to identify whether problem gamblers differed from social gamblers in terms of the lack of anticipation of regret or whether it was due to a lower experienced regret (Tochkov, 2009).

Furthermore, there was no distinction between the problem gamblers, whether they gambled alone or in a group setting. This excludes the effect of the group, where for example, poker, can see increasing stakes through the rounds where players continuously outbid one another, thereby increasing the risk. Hence, this provides room for further research into problem gambling in a social setting, where the effects of group processes such as group conformity can be investigated for their effect on anticipated regret in gambling. Prior research into the role of group conformity in adolescent group decision making has identified an important social-influence impact in adolescents with regards to their perceptions of risk. Group conformity is particularly prevalent during the stage of adolescence, where individuals display increased conformity to that of their peers’ risk ratings (Knoll et al., 2015). This shows that in a social setting of gambling, where players adjust their bets according to their perceived risks of winning / losing the game, group conformity can play a significant role in influencing adolescents’ perception of risks involved in the game.

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As such, riskier options may be perceived as more regret-minimizing than the relatively risk-aversive options, thus intensifying the misidentification of regret-minimizing option (Kelley et al., 2004). This hence prompts questions on the role of group conformity and its interaction with anticipating regret on adolescent decision making in social gambling situations. Alcohol and drug use In terms of decisions regarding alcohol consumption, many studies have been conducted on the role of anticipated regret on adolescent decision making. Anticipated regret has been shown to have differential impacts on different groups. In online groups, anticipated regret works to reduce alcohol and drug use (Stoddard et al., 2012). However, peer pressure also plays a prominent role in influencing decision making, as it can conform adolescent decision making towards increased alcohol and drug usage (Stoddard et al., 2012). However, a limitation for this study is that it did not explore the interaction between group conformity and anticipated regret, as both factors were shown to influence adolescent decision making in different directions with respect to alcohol and drug use, and hence no interaction effects were elicited for the two components of anticipated regret and group conformity. Secondly, the study was unable to establish a causal relationship between the variables, and hence only association between the variables were established (Stoddard et al., 2012). This gives room for further research on how anticipated regret and group conformity can impact adolescent decision making in a causal manner, and which of these two variables would be stronger in impacting adolescent decision making when they interact. In high risk drinking groups, anticipated regret has however been found to be ineffective in influencing changes towards their drinking behaviors (Davies & Joshi, 2018).

The ineffectiveness of anticipating regret is due to the different risk perceptions individuals in high risk drinking groups possess, where they found risk-seeking behaviors such as drink-driving, drug consumption or hangovers to be less regret inducing than they do in normal individuals (Davies & Joshi, 2018). This shows that such individuals perceive risk-seeking behaviors to induce lesser regret, hence they are less sensitive to the anticipated regret, and instead show higher optimism for negative outcomes (Davies & Joshi, 2018). This study corroborates the finding that adolescents are less able to perceive anticipated regret (Kelley et al., 2004) and may suggest that this could be due to different risk perceptions they hold which make risk-seeking behaviors the regret-minimizing option. This study establishes a possible explanation for the lack of anticipated regret in adolescents, and further research could target methods to alter risk perceptions within adolescents and examine its impact on decision making. In terms of targeting single-drinking occasions, Murgraff et al. (1999) found that manipulations of anticipated regret did not result in any discrimination between safer single-occasion drinking and risky single-occasion drinking. Despite manipulating adolescents to feel negative emotions towards drinking behaviors, such manipulation did not achieve behavioral in terms of opting for a more risk-aversive option (safer single-occasion drinking) as compared to the risk-seeking option (risky single-occasion drinking) (Murgraff et al., 1999). This provides further evidence that whilst manipulating anticipated regret may be the first step to influencing adolescent decision making, there are still other factors that could sway their decision to eventually reflecting no behavioral changes at all. This provides areas for further research into the other possible factors influencing this decision, such as the strength of manipulated anticipated regret.

One area not explored by the two studies on high risk drinking groups and single occasion drinkers was that of the influence of group conformity. As drinking is a very social activity, most adolescents drink as a way of fitting into their peer groups or achieving acceptance and recognition from their group (Teunissen, Spigkerman, Prinstein, Cohen, Engels & Scholte, 2012). This is corroborated by the study by Brown (1982) which found that drinking behaviors were one aspect which subjects felt the peer pressure of. As drinking reduces one’s inhibitions (Field, Wiers, Christiansen, Fillmore, & Verster, 2010), it is even more so likely that adolescents lean towards risk-seeking behaviors such as drunk driving, drug usage or casual sex (Eaton et al., 2012; Steinberg, 2008) (as cited in Knoll et al., 2015). Group conformity increases after alcohol consumption (Ambrosino, 2012), hence it is possible that conformity to the group’s beliefs can exacerbate greater risk-seeking behaviors in adolescents in addition to their reduced anticipation of regret. Therefore, further study can look into how group conformity influences adolescent decision making after drinking, and whether anticipation of regret can minimize or counter this effect, and what interactions exist between these two variables in influencing decision making in drinking behaviors.

Conclusion

In conclusion, adolescents are shown to display lesser consideration to anticipate regret during their decision-making process, therefore misidentifying the regret-minimizing option (Kelley et al., 2004). This makes them prone to risk-seeking behaviors according to the regret theory (Loomes & Sugden, 1982). Coupled with the increased susceptibility to group conformity (Steinberg & Monahan, 2007), this may intensify the extent of risk-seeking behaviors of adolescents, particularly in groups. Research has shown that adolescents are more likely to engage in risk-seeking behaviors such as unhealthy drinking, shoplifting etc. when in the presence of other peers. Hence, group conformity can potentially aggravate the lack of anticipated regret in adolescents, thereby stimulating even more risk-seeking behavioral tendencies in them. Many studies have been conducted to elicit the effect of stimulating anticipated regret in individuals, with limited success. Some studies require further replication in order to generalize the results to adolescents (Richard et al., 1996), while others show that those at high risk (drinking preferences/gamblers) do not respond as well to the intended risk-seeking behavioral inhibitions brought on by anticipating regret. This presents an interesting point for further research on which type of people do anticipated regret work the most for, and how to alter the risk perceptions of those at high-risk for risk-seeking behaviors such that they are better able to identify the correct regret-minimizing option. While priming anticipated regret in adolescents generally triggers a negative attitude change toward risk-seeking behaviors, group conformity however triggers increased positive attitudes to risk-seeking behaviors. As such, the interaction between anticipated regret and group conformity in moderating adolescent behavior points to an interesting area of research. The reviewed literature shows the potential of anticipated regret to act as a behavior moderator in adolescent decision making, however group conformity exists as a powerful behavioral influence. In prior research, it has been shown that such risk-taking behaviors can correlate to one another, for example, the peer influence to engage in drinking behaviors has been positively correlated with that of having casual sexual relationships (Brown, 1982). This aggravates the problem as the lack of anticipating regret compounded with the group conformity can push them towards many aspects of risk-seeking behaviors and fueling risk-seeking tendencies.

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