Counterfactual Thinking : A Look At Past Events

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Counterfactual Thinking: A Look at Past Events In our everyday life, we are presented with plenty of circumstances demanding our response. Sometimes, we are the ones taking action and other times we become the judges of other people’s actions. A natural reaction after an event concluded is to think back with alternatives in order to imagine different outcomes. This usually happens because we dislike the results and now, without pressure, we can think of better options. The tendency of creating these infinite alternatives over past events is called counterfactual thinking. According to Epstude and Roese (2008), this tendency appears early in life, by around age two, and it is common across cultures. Children start using these “if only”…show more content…
Let us consider a research conducted by Summerville (2011), which provides evidence that counterfactual seeking, or the choice of learning about past alternatives, will increase after a decision led to worse outcomes. Participants from a psychology class were asked to play 100 rounds of card games on computers. After all rounds, participants were shown their results or what they could have done to win. The researcher found that poorer decision outcomes increased counterfactual seeking. That is, the number of counterfactual thoughts people generate is influenced by outcome severity (Summerville, 2011). Gilbert, Tenney, Holland, and Spellman (2015) found that that people (from outside the problem) might generate more counterfactual thoughts, showing that an individual somehow could control the event, in order to avoid the dramatic results, when they know the individual had knowledge associated with the event. People attribute more blame to an individual who knew about the unpleasant situation than an individual who was unaware of what might happen. In addition, according to Roese (1997), counterfactual thinking may influence blame. When someone behaves in a different manner and a dramatic event suddenly occurs, people acquire the tendency to blame this person. These findings relate to our present study, in which participants are asked to whether who is more blameworthy when reading a dramatic outcome in different scenarios, after an individual refuses to offer
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