Feeling torn and fearing rue: Attitude ambivalence and anticipated regret as antecedents of biased information seeking

Guy Itzchakov, Frenk Van Harreveld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theoretical work on attitudinal ambivalence suggests that anticipated regret may play a role in causing awareness of contradictions that subsequently induce a feeling of an evaluative conflict. In the present paper we empirically examined how the anticipation of regret relates to the association between the simultaneous presence of contradictory cognitions and emotions (objective ambivalence), and the evaluative conflict associated with it (subjective ambivalence), in the context of decision-making. Across three studies (Ns = 204,127,244), manipulating both objective ambivalence and regret, we consistently found that when a dichotomous ambivalent choice had to be made, (objectively) ambivalent attitude holders for whom feelings of anticipated regret were made salient reported higher levels of subjective-attitude ambivalence than participants in the other conditions. Moreover, in Studies 2 and 3 we found that the effect of anticipated regret on subjective ambivalence had consequences on information processing. Specifically, anticipating regret made ambivalent participants search for attitude-congruent information. This effect was mediated by the increase in subjective ambivalence. This work provides the first empirical evidence for the role of regret in the association between objective-and- subjective attitude ambivalence, and its consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from Ono Academic College to the first author.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Inc.


  • Anticipated regret
  • Decision making
  • Information seeking
  • Objective ambivalence
  • Subjective ambivalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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