The researchers had 55 men and women play a computerized cooperation game and demonstrated that participants who felt they had been burned would go over the experience in their heads, playing out alternative versions of how they might have behaved. “Being duped holds up this mirror to people,” Dr. Vohs said, “and may in fact show them where they are on the scale”—too trusting or too vigilant. 32)Paranoia, too, has its costs, and it can 33)sour relationships.
Running back the tape mentally, in this case meditating on how an embarrassing event might have turned out otherwise, is known to psychologists as 34)counterfactual thinking. “The feeling of ‘I should have known better' is the sort of counterfactual that serves to highlight your own shortcomings,” said Neal Roese, a psychologist at the University of Illinois. “A good deal of research has shown that these counterfactual insights can 35)kick-start new behaviors, new self-exploration and, ultimately, self-improvement.”
Those observations may not leap to mind if you just showed up in 36)go-go boots and an Elizabeth Taylor 37)wig to a bogus 1970s 38)cross-dressing party. Or if you fell for the e-mail message announcing you had won an award and should forward a draft of your acceptance speech to a supervisor.
But a good prank is, in the end, a simulation of a crisis and not the real thing. And it serves as a valuable reminder that not every precious box contains precisely the treasure you might expect.