On Near Misses and Completed Tasks: The Nature of Relief

Kate Sweeny, Kathleen D. Vohs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


What is the nature and function of relief? Relief has been studied little in psychological science despite its familiarity and pervasiveness. Two studies revealed that relief can result from two distinct situations: the narrow avoidance of an aversive outcome (near-miss relief) and completion of an onerous or aversive event (task-completion relief). Study 1 found that recollections of near-miss relief were marked by more downward counterfactual thoughts and greater feelings of social isolation than recollections of task-completion relief. Study 2 experimentally elicited the two types of relief and found mediational evidence that relief following near misses elicits feelings of social isolation via its stimulation of counterfactual thinking. That near-miss relief is characterized by counterfactual thinking suggests that it prompts people to contemplate how to avert similar experiences in the future, whereas task-completion relief may serve to reinforce endurance during difficult tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-468
Number of pages5
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012

Bibliographical note

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  • emotions
  • social cognition


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