Counterfactual Thought

Ruth M.J. Byrne
  • Annual Review of Psychology, January 2016, Annual Reviews
  • DOI: 10.1146/annurev-psych-122414-033249

Human thinking about alternatives to reality

What is it about?

This paper outlines how people create 'if only' thoughts about how things could have turned out differently, and the role of these counterfactual thoughts in explanations of the past, and in the formation of intentions for the future, as well as their effects on emotions such as regret or relief, and moral judgments such as blame or responsibility. The paper considers alternative theories of the mental representations and cognitive processes that underlie how people reason about counterfactual alternatives, including the idea that people envisage possibilities or calculate probabilities.

The following have contributed to this page: Professor Ruth M. J. Byrne