Sex differences in regret: All for love or some for lust?

Neal J. Roese, Ginger L. Pennington, Jill Coleman, Maria Janicki, Norman P. Li, Douglas Kenrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Few sex differences in regret or counterfactual thinking are evident in past research. The authors discovered a sex difference in regret that is both domain-specific (i.e., unique to romantic relationships) and interpretable within a convergence of theories of evolution and regulatory focus. Three studies showed that within romantic relationships, men emphasize regrets of inaction over action (which correspond to promotion vs. prevention goals, respectively), whereas women report regrets of inaction and action with equivalent frequency. Sex differences were not evident in other interpersonal regrets (friendship, parental, sibling interactions) and were not moderated by relationship status. Although the sex difference was evident in regrets centering on both sexual and nonsexual relationship aspects, it was substantially larger for sexual regrets. These findings underscore the utility of applying an evolutionary perspective to better understand goal-regulating, cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)770-780
Number of pages11
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Affect
  • Counterfactual
  • Evolution
  • Goals
  • Motivation
  • Parental investment
  • Regret
  • Regulatory focus
  • Sex differences
  • Sexual strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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