Learning regret ‘helps children develop decision skills’

Researchers said regret is much-maligned but crucial emotion.

Learning to feel regret helps children develop good decision-making skills, a study has claimed.

Some of those who experience the emotion from as young as six become able to make superior choices, according to research by Queen’s University.

Dr Aidan Feeney, a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, said regret was a much-maligned emotion - but nevertheless plays a crucial role.

"It could have significant value to children's development because of its role in decision-making,” he explained.

"We're not saying teachers and parents should deliberately expose children to serious regret - but showing them how things would have turned out differently if they'd made an alternative choice could benefit them."

He said adults know to switch their behaviour the next time when a different decision would have led to a better outcome.

This helps them avoid experiencing another negative result.

However, less is known about how and when children experience regret, and how they learn from this emotion.

Dr Feeney said there was much concern over the choices some teenagers make around sexual behaviour and alcohol.

He added: "We don't want teenagers to experience regret by making decisions with very serious consequences.

"Instead, we need to understand how learning about other people's regrets might help them anticipate feeling the emotion themselves and therefore chose more wisely."