Counterfactual Thinking

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A. S. Karpenko

Abstract

Counterfactual thinking is thinking about a past that did not happen. This often takes place in “if only...” situations, when we wish something had or had not happened. Counterfactual reasoning is basic to human cognition and universal in occurrence. Currently, the principles of couterfactual thinking and its results appear in research in various disciplines, such as logic, philosophy, psychology, cognitive processes, sociology, economics, history, political science etc. The special thing about the counterfactuals is that they are the mental imitations of the different variants of what could have happened in the past. It is observed that two uniquely human characteristics — counterfactual thinking (imagining alternatives to the past) and the fundamental drive to create meaning in life — are causally related. Gradually, we have come to understand that we are dealing with the phenomenon of exceptional importance.
DOI: 10.21146/2074-1472-2017-23-2-98-122

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