The relative effects of abstract versus concrete rumination on the experience of post-decisional regret

Publication date: September 2018
Source:Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 108
Author(s): Shanta Dey, Jutta Joormann, Michelle L. Moulds, Ben R. Newell
Abstract rumination is characteristic of depressed individuals, as is the tendency to experience post-decisional regret. We conducted two studies to test whether (i) abstract rumination is associated with post-decisional regret, and (ii) inducing the converse style of thinking, namely concrete rumination, would reduce post-decisional regret. In Study 1, participants identified a personally important decision that they regretted having made in the past 6 months, were instructed to think in either an abstract (n = 29) or concrete (n = 29) way about their decision, then rated the extent to which they regretted the decision. Participants in the abstract condition reported more regret than did participants in the concrete condition. Employing the same methodology used in Study 1, we replicated this finding in Study 2 (abstract condition: n = 34; concrete condition: n = 36). In both studies we additionally tested the prediction that abstract rumination leads to more counterfactual thoughts than concrete rumination. Neither study yielded evidence to support this hypothesis. Overall, the current research indicates that abstract rumination could play an important role in contributing to post-decisional regret and raises the clinical possibility that encouraging depressed individuals to engage in concrete rumination might alleviate post-decisional regret.