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Counterfactual thinking

Felipe De Brigard, Diana Carolina Rodriguez, Patricia Montañés
Although extant evidence suggests that many neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying episodic past, future, and counterfactual thinking overlap, recent results have uncovered differences among these three processes. However, the extent to which there may be age-related differences in the phenomenological characteristics associated with episodic past, future and counterfactual thinking remains unclear. This study used adapted versions of the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire and the Autobiographical Interview in younger and older adults to investigate the subjective experience of episodic past, future and counterfactual thinking...
April 17, 2017: Consciousness and Cognition
Ateka A Contractor, Nicole H Weiss, Paula Dranger, Camilo Ruggero, Cherie Armour
A new symptom criterion of reckless and self-destructive behaviors (E2) was recently added to posttraumatic stress disorder's (PTSD) diagnostic criteria in DSM-5, which is unsurprising given the well-established relation between PTSD and risky behaviors. Researchers have questioned the significance and incremental validity of this symptom criterion within PTSD's symptomatology. Unprecedented to our knowledge, we aim to compare trauma-exposed groups differing on their endorsement status of the risky behavior symptom on several psychopathology constructs (PTSD, depression, distress tolerance, rumination, anger)...
March 6, 2017: Psychiatry Research
Raluca A Briazu, Clare R Walsh, Catherine Deeprose, Giorgio Ganis
This paper explores the proposal that there is a close link between counterfactual thinking and lying. Both require the imagination of alternatives to reality and we describe four studies which explore this link. In Study 1 we measured individual differences in both abilities and found that individuals with a tendency to generate counterfactual thoughts were also more likely to generate potential lies. Studies 2 and 3 showed that counterfactual availability influences people's ability to come up with lies and the extent to which they expect others to lie...
April 2017: Cognition
Matthew L Stanley, Natasha Parikh, Gregory W Stewart, Felipe De Brigard
Episodic counterfactual thoughts-imagined alternative ways in which personal past events might have occurred-are frequently accompanied by intense emotions. Here, participants recollected positive and negative autobiographical memories and then generated better and worse episodic counterfactual events from those memories. Our results suggest that the projected emotional intensity during the simulated remembered/imagined event is significantly higher than but typically positively related to the emotional intensity while remembering/imagining the event...
February 2017: Consciousness and Cognition
Cecilia Hammell, Amy Y C Chan
Counterfactual thinking (reflecting on "what might have been") has been shown to enhance future performance by translating information about past mistakes into plans for future action. Prefactual thinking (imagining "what might be if…") may serve a greater preparative function than counterfactual thinking as it is future-orientated and focuses on more controllable features, thus providing a practical script to prime future behaviour. However, whether or not this difference in hypothetical thought content may translate into a difference in actual task performance has been largely unexamined...
2016: PloS One
María Dolores Roldán-Tapia, Sergio Moreno-Ríos, Rosa Cánovas-López
INTRODUCTION: Prematurely born preschoolers show developmental cognitive delay compared to full-term children. There are important neurological networks developing at preschool age related to perspective taking about the attribution of belief and to deduction with contrary-to-fact situations. Other deductive abilities may be completed during that period. METHOD: A group of very prematurely born children (N = 35) aged between 4 and 5 years was compared with a control group of children born at full term (N = 35)...
November 28, 2016: Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Hugo Mercier, Jonathan J Rolison, Marta Stragà, Donatella Ferrante, Clare R Walsh, Vittorio Girotto
Why do individuals mentally modify reality (e.g., "If it hadn't rained, we would have won the game")? According to the dominant view, counterfactuals primarily serve to prepare future performance. In fact, individuals who have just failed a task tend to modify the uncontrollable features of their attempt (e.g., "If the rules of the game were different, I would have won it"), generating counterfactuals that are unlikely to play any preparatory role. By contrast, they generate prefactuals that focus on the controllable features of their ensuing behavior (e...
February 2017: Memory & Cognition
Kim Glickman, M Katherine Shear, Melanie M Wall
OBJECTIVE: In this study, we examined the mechanisms of action of complicated grief treatment (CGT), an efficacious psychotherapy for complicated grief. METHOD: We explored 3 putative mediators (guilt/self-blame related to the deceased, negative thoughts about the future, and avoidance) among treatment completers assigned to either CGT (n = 35) or interpersonal psychotherapy (n = 34) in a previously reported randomized controlled trial. Antidepressant use was examined as a moderator of mediation effects...
October 18, 2016: Journal of Clinical Psychology
John V Petrocelli, Asher L Rubin, Ryan L Stevens
Experiential and associative learning are essential to optimal decision making. However, research shows that, even when exposed to repeated trials, people often fail to learn probabilities and cause/effect covariations. Consistent with the counterfactual inflation hypothesis, it is proposed that counterfactuals can interfere with memory of repeated exposures and therefore inhibit learning. Five experimental studies tested counterfactual thinking as a potential mechanism underlying this learning deficit using a simple, biased coin flipping paradigm...
October 13, 2016: Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin
Song Wang, Ming Zhou, Taolin Chen, Xun Yang, Guangxiang Chen, Meiyun Wang, Qiyong Gong
As a personality trait, grit involves the tendency to strive to achieve long-term goals with continual passion and perseverance and plays an extremely crucial role in personal achievement. However, the neural mechanisms of grit remain largely unknown. In this study, we aimed to explore the association between grit and the fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) in 217 healthy adolescent students using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (RS-fMRI). We found that an individual's grit was negatively related to the regional fALFF in the right dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC), which is involved in self-regulation, planning, goal setting and maintenance, and counterfactual thinking for reflecting on past failures...
March 1, 2017: Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Adrian J Bravo, Matthew R Pearson, James M Henson
BACKGROUND: Understanding the potential psychosocial mechanisms that explain (i.e., mediate) the associations between depressive symptoms and alcohol-related problems can improve interventions targeting college students. OBJECTIVES: The current research examined four distinct facets of rumination (e.g., problem-focused thoughts, counterfactual thinking, repetitive thoughts, and anticipatory thoughts) and drinking to cope motives as potential explanatory mechanisms by which depressive symptoms are associated with increased alcohol-related problems...
January 2, 2017: Substance Use & Misuse
Auria Albacete, Fernando Contreras, Clara Bosque, Ester Gilabert, Ángela Albiach, José M Menchón, Benedicto Crespo-Facorro, Rosa Ayesa-Arriola
Counterfactual thinking (CFT) is a type of conditional reasoning that enables the generation of mental simulations of alternatives to past factual events. Previous research has found this cognitive feature to be disrupted in schizophrenia (Hooker et al., 2000; Contreras et al., 2016). At the same time, the study of cognitive deficits in unaffected relatives of people with schizophrenia has significantly increased, supporting its potential endophenotypic role in this disorder. Using an exploratory approach, the current study examined CFT for the first time in a sample of non-psychotic first-degree relatives of schizophrenia patients (N = 43), in comparison with schizophrenia patients (N = 54) and healthy controls (N = 44)...
2016: Frontiers in Psychology
Ayse Payir, Robert Guttentag
In two experiments, we investigated developmental change in the use of a counterfactual consoling strategy: "it could have been worse." In Experiment 1, 8-year-olds, 10-year-olds, 12-year-olds, and adults were presented with two stories in which a character feels bad as the result of an event that could have turned out better or could have turned out worse. Participants were asked what they would say or do to make the characters feel better. The results revealed that the frequency with which participants mentioned a counterfactual consoling strategy increased dramatically with age...
August 2016: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology
Zhiyuan Liu, Lin Li, Li Zheng, Zengxi Hu, Ian D Roberts, Xiuyan Guo, Guang Yang
Regret and relief are associated with counterfactual thinking and are sensitive to various social contexts. In the present fMRI study, we investigated the neural basis for regret and relief and how social context (following vs. not following advice) modulates them by employing a sequential risk-taking task. Participants were asked to open a series of boxes consecutively until they decided to stop. Each box contained a reward (gold), except for one that contained an adverse stimulus (devil), which caused the participant to lose all the gold collected in that trial...
July 7, 2016: Neuroscience
Felipe De Brigard, Kelly S Giovanello, Gregory W Stewart, Amber W Lockrow, Margaret M O'Brien, R Nathan Spreng
Recent evidence demonstrates remarkable overlap in the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying episodic memory, episodic future thinking, and episodic counterfactual thinking. However, the extent to which the phenomenological characteristics associated with these mental simulations change as a result of ageing remains largely unexplored. The current study employs adapted versions of the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire and the Autobiographical Interview to compare the phenomenological characteristics associated with both positive and negative episodic past, future, and counterfactual simulations in younger and older adults...
December 2016: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: QJEP
Ashley M Ramos, Brittney Becker, Julie A Biemer, Lindsay Clark, Sherecce Fields, Rachel Smallman
OBJECTIVE: Despite serious health risks, attitudes toward Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medication use in college students remain favorable. Given the robust link between attitudes and behavior (e.g., the Theory of Planned Behavior), it is important to understand how these attitudes are developed and maintained. The current study examined the role of counterfactual, or "what if'" thinking as a mechanism for the development of attitudes toward ADHD medications. METHOD: All participants (n = 190) were asked to read either a positive or negative scenario regarding ADHD medication misuse and rate their attitudes toward the behavior; half of the participants were also asked to generate counterfactuals prior to rating their attitudes...
2016: Substance Use & Misuse
Fernando Contreras, Auria Albacete, Pere Castellví, Agnès Caño, Bessy Benejam, José Manuel Menchón
BACKGROUND: Counterfactual thinking is a specific type of conditional reasoning that enables the generation of mental simulations of alternatives to past factual events. Although it has been broadly studied in the general population, research on schizophrenia is still scarce. The aim of the current study was to further examine counterfactual reasoning in this illness. METHODS: Forty schizophrenia patients and 40 controls completed a series of tests that assessed the influence of the "causal order effect" on counterfactual thinking, and the ability to generate counterfactual thoughts and counterfactually derive inferences from a hypothetical situation...
2016: PloS One
So-Ra Kim, Young-Sil Kwon, Myoung-Ho Hyun
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: One's belief in good luck, and belief that it is a personal trait, could play a crucial role in gambling behavior, and can lead gamblers to have an irrational anticipation to win and to over-generalize their subjective sense of control. And upward counterfactual thinking has been considered to be a factor that offsets those irrational beliefs. This study examined the effects of belief in good luck and of upward counterfactual thinking on gambling behavior. METHODS: The subjects of the study were 52 college students who had been classified as non-problematic and non-pathological gamblers...
December 2015: Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Mark D Alicke, David R Mandel, Denis J Hilton, Tobias Gerstenberg, David A Lagnado
Understanding the causes of human behavior is essential for advancing one's interests and for coordinating social relations. The scientific study of how people arrive at such understandings or explanations has unfolded in four distinguishable epochs in psychology, each characterized by a different metaphor that researchers have used to represent how people think as they attribute causality and blame to other individuals. The first epoch was guided by an "intuitive scientist" metaphor, which emphasized whether observers perceived behavior to be caused by the unique tendencies of the actor or by common reactions to the requirements of the situation...
November 2015: Perspectives on Psychological Science: a Journal of the Association for Psychological Science
Melissa A Mitchell, Ateka A Contractor, Paula Dranger, M Tracie Shea
OBJECTIVE: Cognitive models of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) propose that rumination about a trauma may increase particular symptom clusters. One type of rumination, termed counterfactual thinking (CFT), refers to thinking of alternative outcomes for an event. CFT centered on a trauma is thought to increase intrusions, negative alterations in mood and cognitions (NAMC), and marked alterations in arousal and reactivity (AAR). The theorized relations between CFT and specific symptom clusters have not been thoroughly investigated...
May 2016: Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice and Policy
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