The role of self-regulatory individual differences in counterfactual thinking
MetadataShow full item record
The aim of this research was to investigate the role of self-regulatory individual differences in counterfactual thinking. In particular, we examined individual differences in autonomy, action/state orientation and cognitive self-affirmation inclination over the course of seven experiments. Autonomy, which emphasizes intrinsic motivation and reduced preoccupation with external outcomes, was explored in Experiments 1, 2, and 3. The results showed that autonomy influenced counterfactual controllability and that the method of eliciting counterfactual responses was important to observe this association. Additionally, the experiments demonstrated the adaptiveness of controllable counterfactuals in performance improvement. Experiments 4 and 5 examined action/state orientation which is the capacity to view self-representations as unthreatened following negative outcomes. We found that an action-orientation was associated with counterfactual controllability when participants encountered prolonged difficulty in a cognitive task. Also, by experimentally manipulating action/state orientation we found that innately action-oriented and state-oriented participants differed in the counterfactuals they generated. Finally, Experiments 6 and 7 demonstrated that individuals high in cognitive self-affirmation inclination, a tendency to self-affirm, generated more controllable counterfactuals, compared to individuals without this tendency. The findings from the seven experiments indicate that individual differences in selfregulatory traits are important in the types of counterfactual thoughts that people generate. We discuss the implications of the findings for the functional theory of counterfactual thinking and for the use of counterfactual thought in applied settings.