New Publication: Near-misses sting even when they are uncontrollable

Have you ever missed a plane by mere minute, or missed winning a game by several points? Emotionally, these "near-misses" hurt more than “far-misses” (when you miss by a large margin), and one potential explanation is because we feel regret that we could’ve “tried harder”. But what about when your lotto ticket misses the jackpot by 1? Intuition (and previous research) shows that you might still feel worse, even if you could not have “tried harder”. New research, done by Desmond Ong, Noah Goodman and Jamil Zaki, shows that humans do judge others to feel worse when they experience near-misses even when those others had no control over the outcomes, such as in gambling and other luck-based scenarios. Critically, these near-miss judgments depend on an appearance of control (often called “illusory control”). Observers judge others to feel worse if the near-miss occurred along a dimension on which the players made a choice (e.g. the number the players chose missed the winning number by 1), but not when the near-miss was along a dimension on which the players did not make a choice (e.g. the card position the players were assigned was only 1 away from the winning card). This has implications for understanding how we judge others’ emotional reactions. Desmond present this research as a talk at the 37th Annual Cognitive Science Society Meeting, Pasadena CA, July 2015. Click here for a full list of SSNL publications.