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Children's Thinking About Counterfactuals and Future Hypotheticals as Possibilities

Summary: Children's Thinking About Counterfactuals and Future Hypotheticals
as Possibilities
Sarah R. Beck
University of Birmingham
Elizabeth J. Robinson
University of Warwick
Daniel J. Carroll and Ian A. Apperly
University of Birmingham
Two experiments explored whether children's correct answers to counterfactual and future hypothetical
questions were based on an understanding of possibilities. Children played a game in which a toy mouse could
run down either 1 of 2 slides. Children found it difficult to mark physically both possible outcomes, compared to
reporting a single hypothetical future event, ``What if next time he goes the other way . . .'' (Experiment 1: 3 4-
year-olds and 4 5-year-olds), or a single counterfactual event, ``What if he had gone the other way . . .?''
(Experiment 2: 3 4-year-olds and 5 6-year-olds). An open counterfactual question, ``Could he have gone any-
where else?,'' which required thinking about the counterfactual as an alternative possibility, was also relatively
A powerful feature of adult thinking is the readiness
to reflect on possibilities, to consider what we know
about reality within a broader context of what might
be the case or what might have been the case. There


Source: Apperly, Ian - School of Psychology, University of Birmingham


Collections: Biology and Medicine