The interplay between counterfactual reasoning and feedback dynamics in producing inferences about the self

Thinking and Reasoning 13 (2):188 – 206 (2007)
Counterfactual reasoning research typically demonstrates contrast effects—nearly winning evokes frustration, whereas nearly losing evokes exhilaration. The present work, however, describes conditions under which assimilative responses (i.e., when judgements are pulled towards a comparison standard) also occur. Participants solved analogies and learned that they had either nearly attained a target score or nearly failed to attain it. Participants in the no trajectory condition received this feedback in the absence of any prior feedback, whereas those in the trajectory condition received feedback after having received prior feedback conforming to either an ascending or descending pattern. Participants then provided perceptions of their verbal intelligence. Assimilation effects were observed in the trajectory conditions but attenuated in the no trajectory conditions. Discussion focuses on the role of feedback dynamics in determining responses to close-call counterfactuals.
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