Who is to blame, who is to credit? counterfactual thinking and children’s judgments of emotions and social attributions

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ayse Payir (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Robert Guttentag

Abstract: The present study was designed to examine age differences in the understanding of counterfactual emotions and whether this understanding is reflected in social judgments that are influenced by counterfactual thinking. Six-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 11-year-olds, and adults were presented with 4 scenarios involving two 2 common biases observed in adults’ counterfactual thinking: omission bias and temporal order bias. In each of these scenarios, 2 characters were described as making a choice that resulted in the same outcome; the only difference between the characters was their decision process. In the omission/commission scenarios, the decision of one character was framed as an act of omission whereas the other’s was framed as an act of commission. In the temporal order scenarios, one character made his decision first whereas the other made his decision second. In one of the scenarios for each bias, the outcome was positive (both characters made the correct decision, resulting in a prize being won by themselves and by other students in their classes), whereas in the other scenarios the decision resulted in a negative outcome (both characters made the wrong decision, resulting in a prize being lost by themselves and by other students in their classes). Following the presentation of each scenario, participants were asked to judge which character (1) would feel worse[better], (2) be likely to be blamed[credited] by others, and (3) deserved to be blamed[credited]. The results revealed that judgments of emotions (i.e., regret & relief) and social ascriptions (others’ blame or credit & deserved blame or credit) were heavily influenced by “what might have happened” for adults whereas children’s responses were determined by reflections on only “what happened” (although some judgments of 11-year-olds resembled that of adults). In addition, the effect of counterfactual thinking biases was more pronounced in the negative outcome stories than in the positive outcome stories. The results confirm previous evidence that counterfactual thinking ability gradually develops until late childhood. Also, the results show that the judgments of blame and credit can take more than one form by revealing a dissociation between the judgments of others’ blame[credit] and deserved blame[credit].

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Attributing Blame, Attributing Credit, Children's Counterfactual Thinking, Counterfactual Emotions, Counterfactual Judgments, Social Judgments
Judgment in children
Emotions in children
Reasoning in children
Attribution (Social psychology) in children
Counterfactuals (Logic)

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