Thinking and Reasoning 12 (2):235 – 255 (2006)

Ruth Mary Josephine Byrne
Trinity College, Dublin
We report two Experiments to compare counterfactual thoughts about how an outcome could have been different and causal explanations about why the outcome occurred. Experiment 1 showed that people generate counterfactual thoughts more often about controllable than uncontrollable events, whereas they generate causal explanations more often about unexpected than expected events. Counterfactual thoughts focus on specific factors, whereas causal explanations focus on both general and specific factors. Experiment 2 showed that in their spontaneous counterfactual thoughts, people focus on normal events just as often as exceptional events, unlike in directed counterfactual thoughts. The findings are consistent with the suggestion that counterfactual thoughts tend to focus on how a specific unwanted outcome could have been prevented, whereas causal explanations tend to provide more general causal information that enables future understanding, prediction, and intervention in a wide range of situations.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/13546780500317897
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,209
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Work of the Imagination.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2002 - Mind 111 (442):414-418.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
57 ( #188,876 of 2,455,351 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #303,290 of 2,455,351 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes