Regret, Social Standing, and Loss

I’ve read that brain imaging studies show that when we think about other people, parts of our frontal cortex become active. Advocates of the social brain hypothesis say the frontal cortex expanded in our ancestors because natural selection favored social intelligence. I suppose social media continues that trend.

Research also suggests that before we risk something, we need to feel assured that our potential gain is twice the possible loss, as loss feels twice as bad as gain feels good. So we have a greater sensitivity to losses than to equivalent gains when making decisions. In trading situations, we will most likely opt to keep what we have because we place a larger value on things that we already possess.

And we will make many of these decisions in light of social standing.

I’ve heard that when people are asked if they would rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or earn $100,000 a year while other people receive $250,000, the majority of us choose the 50k. We would rather make twice as much as others even if it means earning half as much as we might otherwise. Social standing trumps simple economics.

Does this suggest anything about my regrets, which the dictionary defines as “thinking and feeling with a sense of loss.”

If my losses feel twice as bad as my gains, then perhaps I feel my regrets more keenly than my victories…

 

I would have triumphed,

Had but to try,

Only,

          I was so afraid of failure.

And in this fear, hesitation won,

          Though so briefly.

And now, the results of that barest pause,

They resonate with me yet.

No conquest has silenced the pain of that loss,

No prize has tamed its gnawing.

And the regrets of that long ago moment

Continue their taint  of my victories today…

 

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