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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Counterfactual thinking is the ability to speculate about how the world may have turned out differently, or what might have been, for example, "If only I'd left the house earlier, I wouldn't have been late." Counterfactual thinking, although imaginative, is closely related to reality, yet also requires ignoring what one knows to be true. This chapter reviews the development of counterfactual thinking between two and eight years of age. Children develop their abilities to generate alternative worlds, ignore reality, and relate counterfactual and real worlds. The chapter also examines what is known about how children's thinking about real and counterfactual worlds influence each other. Although children begin to speculate about counterfactual worlds from a very young age, it is only in mid-childhood that they relate it to reality in an adult-like way.

Keywords: counterfactual, inhibition, reality, reasoning, regret, relief

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