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Postdecisional counterfactual thinking by actors and readers

Abstract : How do individuals think counterfactually about the outcomes of their decisions? Most previous studies have investigated how readers think about fictional stories, rather than how actors think about events they have actually experienced. We assumed that differences in individuals' roles (actor vs. reader) can make different information available, which in turn can affect counterfactual thinking. Hence, we predicted an effect of role on postdecisional counterfactual thinking. Reporting the results of eight studies, we show that readers undo the negative outcome of a story by undoing the protagonist's choice to tackle a given problem, rather than the protagonist's unsuccessful attempt to solve it. But actors who make the same choice and experience the same negative outcome as the protagonist undo this outcome by altering features of the problem. We also show that this effect does not depend on motivational factors. These results contradict current accounts of counterfactual thinking and demonstrate the necessity of investigating the counterfactual thoughts of individuals in varied roles.
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Contributor : Jean-Baptiste Melmi Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 1:35:43 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, October 19, 2021 - 10:58:52 PM

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Vittorio Girotto, Donatella Ferrante, Stefania Pighin, Michel Gonzalez. Postdecisional counterfactual thinking by actors and readers. Psychological Science, Association for Psychological Science, 2007, 18 (6), pp.510-515. ⟨10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.01931.x⟩. ⟨hal-01440613⟩



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