Counterfactuals

Ferguson, Heather J. (2019) Counterfactuals. In: Cummins, Christopher and Katsos, Napoleon, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Experimental Semantics and Pragmatics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-879176-8. (In press) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

The ability to update our knowledge using contextual information is a vital process during everyday language comprehension. Counterfactual language (e.g. If…then…) establishes a special kind of context which requires a person to represent false information as temporarily true (and vice versa). While a long tradition of research has explored counterfactual reasoning strategies, and the kinds of counterfactual thoughts people are likely to generate in a variety of circumstances, it is only very recently that researchers have begun to empirically test how counterfactuals are represented and accessed online during language comprehension. This emerging research has employed temporally-sensitive cognitive neuroscientific methodologies alongside language comprehension tasks to demonstrate that healthy adult readers can make appropriate inferences following a counterfactual context, showing rapid, and possibly simultaneous, access to both the counterfactual and factual interpretations of events. Future research is needed to explore the link between counterfactual thinking and social cognition, including how counterfactual thinking is affected when social skills are impaired (as in autism spectrum disorders).

Item Type: Book section
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Depositing User: Heather Ferguson
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2017 12:19 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 18:56 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/61286 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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