The impact of past behaviour normality on regret: replication and extension of three experiments of the exceptionality effect

Lucas Kutscher, Gilad Feldman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Norm theory (Kahneman, D., & Miller, D. T. (1986). Norm theory: Comparing reality to its alternatives. Psychological Review, 93, 136-153) described a tendency for people to associate stronger regret with a negative outcome when it is a result of an exception (abnormal behaviour) compared to when it is a result of routine (normal behaviour). In two pre-registered studies, we conducted a replication and extension of three classic experiments on past behaviour exception/routine contrasts (N = 684). We successfully replicated Kahneman and Miller's (1986) experiments with the classic hitchhiker-scenario (Part 1) and car accident-scenario (Part 2). In both cases, participants examined negative outcomes and tended to indicate a protagonist who deviated from own past behaviour as more regretful than another who followed routine. Pre-registered extensions also showed effects for ratings of social norms, negative affect, and perceived luck. We did not find support for the Miller, D. T., and McFarland, C. [(1986). Counterfactual thinking and victim compensation: A test of norm theory. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 513-519] experiment robbery scenario (Part 3) using a compensation measure, in that compensation to a victim of a robbery was not significantly different comparing exceptional and routine circumstances. However, a pre-registered extension showed that robbery under exceptional circumstances was perceived as more regretful than robbery under routine circumstances. We discuss implications for current and future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 901-914
Number of pages14
JournalCognition & Emotion
Issue number5
Early online date10 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Normality
  • norm theory
  • regret
  • exception routine
  • exceptionality effect
  • replication
  • BIAS


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