What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking

By Neal J. Roese; James M. Olson | Go to book overview

manifestations of this deficiency in perspective taking range from the familiar hindsight effects to cases that would be classified as magical thinking.


CONCLUDING QUESTIONS

This discussion has raised more questions than it has even attempted to answer, and it is best summarized by a partial list of these questions. How effective is the imaginary exploration of multiple courses of action in improving actual decision making? Are upward counterfactuals pleasant as well as painful, and could we use psychophysiology to tell? When are mental simulations most likely to be accurate? When are explicit and implicit causal beliefs most likel y to conflict? How can the exaggerated confidence in scenario thinking be controlled? When do counterfactuals and causes have the phenomenological status of percepts? Are most statements about causes really intended as assertions about counterfactuals? Do families who lose a member to a first heart attack or to an accident differ significantly in their mourning? Are there two kinds of regret, and what are their antecedents? Do people fear regret or regrettable consequences? Do they attribute virtual knowledge and virtual emotion to the ignorant and to the dead, and what are the limits of such attributions? One can only hope that imagining a world in which the answers to all these questions are known may have a preparatory function.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This chapter was improved by helpful comments from Dale Miller, Neal Roese, and Ariel Rubinstein.


REFERENCES

Baron, J. ( 1994). Thinking and deciding ( 2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Baron, J., & Hershey, J. C. ( 1988). "Outcome-bias in decision evaluation". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 569-579.

Baron, J., & Ritov, I. ( 1994). "Reference points and omission bias". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 59, 475-498.

Bell, D. E. ( 1982). "Regret in decision making under uncertainty". Operations Research, 30, 961-981.

Chaiken, S. ( 1987). "The heuristic model of persuasion". In M. P. Zanna, J. M. Olson, & C. P. Herman (Eds.), Social influence: The Ontario symposium (Vol. 5, pp. 3-39). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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