Thinking and Reasoning 17 (2):197 - 211 (2011)
Four studies show that observers and readers imagine different alternatives to reality. When participants read a story about a protagonist who chose the more difficult of two tasks and failed, their counterfactual thoughts focused on the easier, unchosen task. But when they observed the performance of an individual who chose and failed the more difficult task, participants' counterfactual thoughts focused on alternative ways to solve the chosen task, as did the thoughts of individuals who acted out the event. We conclude that these role effects may occur because participants' attention is engaged when they experience or observe an event more than when they read about it
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