How you deal with regret may have a lot to do with your age. A new study shows that young people have a much harder time letting go of regrets than the elderly, who don't spend much time crying over spilt milk:
A new study demonstrates that these cognitive differences manifest themselves in brain scans and physiological responses, revealing that, unlike healthy adults, both depressed adults and young people treat missed opportunities and genuine losses as equally regretful events—even if they were not directly responsible.
But the question is why don't older adults spend a lot of time in Regretville?
Although the new study does not offer direct experimental evidence to explain why healthy older adults in the study were less susceptible to regret, Brassen has a few ideas. She speculates that healthy older adults blame themselves less than depressed adults and young people, distinguishing between actions for which they are responsible and events they cannot control—such as when the devil in the game appeared. Brassen further proposes that disengaging from regret is a protective strategy that kicks in sometime in old age, preventing the elderly—who do not have as much time or opportunity to make amends—from needlessly feeling sorry about things they cannot realistically change. In contrast, young people have their whole lives ahead of them—plenty of time to repeat their mistakes if they do not learn from them.