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Alternatives or syntactic negation? Adults’ and children’s preferences for constructing counterfactual possibilities

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posted on 2024-02-29, 14:58 authored by Jesica Gómez-Sánchez, Sergio Moreno-Ríos, Caren Frosch
AbstractReasoning with counterfactuals such as “if his sister had entered silently, the child would have been awake”, requires considering what is conjectured (“his sister entered silently”) and what is the counterfactual possibility (“his sister did not enter silently”). In two experiments, we test how both adults (Study 1) and children from 8 to 12 years (Study 2) construct counterfactual possibilities about the cause of an effect (“the child was awake because…”). We test specifically whether people construct the counterfactual possibility by recovering alternatives, for example, “the alarm clock sounded” or by using the syntactic negation using propositional symbols (“his sister did not enter silently”). Moreover, as children show difficulty in thinking with abstract contents, we test whether they construct the counterfactual possibility more readily by recovering concrete alternatives (“the alarm clock sounded”) rather than abstract alternatives (“he had trouble sleeping”). Results showed that children, as well as adults, recovered the alternative as the cause of the effect rather than the negation. Moreover, children, unlike adults, created the counterfactual possibility more frequently by recovering concrete situations rather than abstract situations.

Funding

PGC2018- 095868-B-I00

FPU15/05899

History

Citation

Gómez-Sánchez, J., Moreno-Ríos, S. & Frosch, C. Alternatives or syntactic negation? Adults’ and children’s preferences for constructing counterfactual possibilities. Curr Psychol 42, 11967–11979 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-02456-2

Author affiliation

School of Psychology and Vision Science, University of Leicester

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Current Psychology

Volume

42

Pagination

11967-11979

Publisher

Springer Science and Business Media LLC

issn

1046-1310

eissn

1936-4733

Acceptance date

2021-10-29

Copyright date

2021

Available date

2024-02-29

Language

en

Data Access Statement

The data for both experiments are available at https://osf.io/y4p3w/?view_only=e6e7ae4d56a4469183b8ae84628023b3

Rights Retention Statement

  • No

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