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Action-Inaction Asymmetries in Emotions and Counterfactual Thoughts: Meta-Analysis of the Action Effect
Charting meta-analytic evidence for the action-effectRecommended by Chris Chambers based on reviews by Dan Quintana, Emiel Cracco and priyali rajagopal
Winston Churchill once famously quipped, “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” Churchill, however, may have been an exception to the rule, with psychological research suggesting that people are more concerned about the consequences of actions than inactions. During the so-called “action-effect”, first reported by Kahneman and Tversky (1982), people regret an action leading to a bad outcome more than they do an inaction leading to the same bad outcome
In the current study, Yeung and Feldman (2022) propose a wide-ranging meta-analysis to characterise evidence for the action-effect, focusing in particular on emotions and counterfactual thoughts – that is, mental representations of alternative decisions (or “what if” thoughts). Consistent with the expected consequences of the action-effect on emotion, they predict that action will be associated with stronger negative emotions than inaction (when outcomes are negative), and with stronger positive emotions than inaction (when outcomes are positive). The authors also expect action to be associated with a greater abundance of counterfactual thought compared to inaction.
In addition to examining the overall reliability of the action-effect (plus a range of exploratory questions), the study will also examine the extent to which the action-effect is moderated by temporal distance (with more recent events or behaviours predicted to associated with a stronger action effect), the type of study design, prior outcomes and social norms, the specificity (vs. generality) of the prior event, and whether the study employed a hypothetical scenario or a real-life event.
The Stage 1 manuscript was evaluated over two rounds of in-depth review. Based on detailed responses to the reviewers' comments, the recommender judged that the manuscript met the Stage 1 criteria and awarded in-principle acceptance (IPA).
URL to the preregistered Stage 1 protocol: https://osf.io/4pvs6
Level of bias control achieved: Level 2. At least some data/evidence that will be used to answer the research question has been accessed and partially observed by the authors, but the authors certify that they have not yet observed the key variables within the data that will be used to answer the research question
List of eligible PCI RR-friendly journals:
1. Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1982). The psychology of preferences. Scientific American, 246(1), 160-173. https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican0182-160
2. Yeung, S. K. & Feldman, G. (2022). Action-Inaction Asymmetries in Emotions and Counterfactual Thoughts: Meta-Analysis of the Action Effect, in principle acceptance of Version 3 by Peer Community in Registered Reports. https://osf.io/4pvs6