Counterfactual Thinking

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Counterfactual Thinking _When and how do children experience regret?_ _Major Research Essay: Psyc241_ _Student number: 4075274_ _School: University of Wollongong_ _Word count: 1506_ The experience of regret arguably relies on a multifaceted, counterfactual analysis of two previously possible outcomes. An important question to consider is at what age these counterfactual emotions develop, and what enables these responses to occur. Previous research proposes that regret emerges at around 4 years old, marginally earlier than more recent studies conducted by Guttentag and Ferrell, who suggest that the experience of regret occurs relatively late in child development. The results of these studies argue that understanding, rather than…show more content…
Experiencing regret however, involves a comparison of reality with a better, alternative outcome. Given that it is a difficult task to simultaneously comprehend two equally plausible realities, it must be even more difficult to understanding the reasoning behind _why_ this feels bad. Interestingly, although Guttentag and Ferrell (2004) located the experience of regret early in childhood, they argued that it wasn 't until later in life - around 7 years old - that a child was able to demonstrate _why_ an alternative reality might affect the emotional reaction to the actual outcome. Guttentag and Ferrell (2004) suggested that children less than 5 or 6 years old cannot generate a comparison between a real and counterfactual reality. According to this perspective, the comparison between two previously possible outcomes is critical. In 2009, Beck and Crilly adapted this theory, and hypothesized that "an inability to compare the two worlds limits children 's thinking about regret." (Beck, & Crilly 2009). Beck, Robinson, Carroll and Apperly (2006) proposed a similar perspective, arguing that it wasn 't until children were 5 or 6 years old that counterfactual and actual events were two equally plausible events. Studies conducted following this proposal revealed corresponding results. Children between the ages of 3 and 6 were asked an open and a closed question regarding the pathway chosen by a toy mouse. Children aged 3 found it difficult to
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