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Mature counterfactual reasoning in 4- and 5-year-olds

Nyhout, A., Ganea, P.A. (2019) Mature counterfactual reasoning in 4- and 5-year-olds. Cognition, 183 . pp. 57-66. ISSN 0010-0277. (doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2018.10.027) (KAR id:81935)

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Counterfactual reasoning is a hallmark of the human imagination. Recently, researchers have argued that children do not display genuine counterfactual reasoning until they can reason about events that are overdetermined and consider the removal of one of multiple causes that lead to the same outcome. This ability has been shown to emerge between 6 and 12 years of age. In 3 experiments, we used an overdetermined physical causation task to investigate preschoolers' ability to reason counterfactually. In Experiment 1a, preschoolers (N = 96) were presented with a "blicket-detector" machine. Children saw both overdetermined (2 causal blocks on a box) and single-cause trials (1 causal and 1 non-causal block) and were asked what would have happened if one of the two blocks had not been placed on the box. Four-year-olds' performance was above chance on both trial types, and 5-year-olds' performance was at ceiling, whereas 3-year-olds did not perform above chance on any trial types. These findings were replicated in Experiment 1b with 4- and 5-year-olds (N = 40) using more complex question wording. In Experiment 2 (N = 40, 4- and 5-year-olds), we introduced a temporal delay between the placement of the first and second block to test the robustness of children's counterfactual reasoning. Even on this more difficult version of the task, performance was significantly above chance. Given a clear and novel causal structure, preschoolers display adult-like counterfactual reasoning. © 2018 Elsevier B.V.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.cognition.2018.10.027
Additional information: Unmapped bibliographic data: LA - English [Field not mapped to EPrints] J2 - Cognition [Field not mapped to EPrints] C2 - 30414500 [Field not mapped to EPrints] AD - Applied Psychology & Human Development, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6, Canada [Field not mapped to EPrints] DB - Scopus [Field not mapped to EPrints] M3 - Article [Field not mapped to EPrints]
Uncontrolled keywords: Causal reasoning, Counterfactual reasoning, Physical causation
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Depositing User: Angela Nyhout
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2020 11:57 UTC
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2020 09:27 UTC
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