Skip to main content

The Development of the Counterfactual Imagination

Nyhout, A., Ganea, P.A. (2019) The Development of the Counterfactual Imagination. Child Development Perspectives, 13 (4). pp. 254-259. ISSN 1750-8592. (doi:10.1111/cdep.12348) (KAR id:81933)

PDF Author's Accepted Manuscript
Language: English
Download (300kB) Preview
Official URL


When reasoning counterfactually, we think of alternative possibilities to what we know to be true about the world by imagining what would have happened had a situation been different. Research has yielded mixed findings and substantial debate over when this ability develops, how it is best conceptualized, and what functions it serves. In this article, we propose a framework of counterfactual reasoning in development. We argue that counterfactual reasoning is best understood by looking both at the representations of reality children manipulate counterfactually, and the cognitive processes that make up and contribute to counterfactual reasoning. In so doing, we highlight the fact that many of the component skills are present in early childhood. This framework yields testable predictions about children's counterfactual reasoning across a range of situations. We also discuss recent work that examines the contribution of counterfactual reasoning to learning in childhood.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/cdep.12348
Additional information: Unmapped bibliographic data: LA - English [Field not mapped to EPrints] J2 - Child Dev. Perspect. [Field not mapped to EPrints] AD - University of Toronto, Canada [Field not mapped to EPrints] DB - Scopus [Field not mapped to EPrints] M3 - Article [Field not mapped to EPrints]
Uncontrolled keywords: cognitive development, counterfactual reasoning, imagination, mental representation
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Depositing User: Angela Nyhout
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2020 13:16 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2020 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Nyhout, A.:
  • Depositors only (login required):


Downloads per month over past year