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Counterfactual Conditionals and False Belief. Eva Rafetseder, Christine Hofer & Josef Perner. 2 Guiding Questions. 1. Under which circumstances can we conclude that children are able to reason counterfactually?

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counterfactual conditionals and false belief

Counterfactual Conditionals and False Belief

Eva Rafetseder, Christine Hofer & Josef Perner

2 guiding questions
2 Guiding Questions

1. Under which circumstances can we conclude that children are able to reason counterfactually?

2. Based on the drawn conclusion, does there exist a connection between counterfactual reasoning and false belief?

typical counterfactual task
Typical Counterfactual Task

Harris et al. (1996)

Story: Carol comeshomeandshedoesn‘ttake her shoes off.

Shemakesthefloor all dirtywith her shoes.

Test: Counterfactualquestion: „If Carol had taken her shoes off, would the floor be dirty or clean?“

!Childrenareabletogivethecorrectanswer „clean“ assoonasthey understand thattheconsequencehastodifferfromreality(= countertofact).

results
Results

3 - 4 correct

Performance differsfromchanceforbothagegroups:

D(N = 13) = 0.40, p<.01

D(N = 13) = 0.53, p<.01

0 - 2 correct

Harris et al. (1996)

consider
Consider!

Carol didn‘ttakeher muddyshoes off and

walkedoverthe clean floor. The flooris all dirty.

Counterfactual

(subjunctiveQuestion)

If Carol hadtakenher shoes off,

wouldthefloorbe clean ordirty?

[clean]

Hypothetical

(indicativeQuestion)

If Carol takesher shoes off,

isthefloor clean ordirty?

[clean]

same (correct) answerwithandwithoutcounterfactualreasoning(!)

needed distinction
Needed Distinction

Reasoningaskedforbyexperimenter (!!)

Reasoningbroughttobearbychildren (??)

Hypotheticalreasoning

  • Reasoningwithassumptions „countertofact“
  • Indicative
  • Example:
  • IF (whenever) somebody takes the dirty shoes off THEN the floor is (tends to be) clean.

Weshouldusetasksin which counterfactual and hypothetical reasoning give different answers to a counterfactual question in order to avoid false positives!

Counterfactual reasoning

  • Combines assumptions with facts
  • Subjunctive
  • Example:

Somebody walked with dirty shoes on the clean floor. IF this person had taken the dirty shoes off THEN the floor would have stayed clean.

developmental test
Developmental Test

Simple Version

Complex Version

Harris et al. (1996)

Schwitalla (2010)

Carol and John don‘t take their shoes off. They make the floor all dirty with their shoes.

Carol doesn‘t take her shoes off. She makes the floor all dirty with her shoes.

„If Carol had taken her shoes off, would the floor be dirty or clean?“

„Show me: How would the floor look?“

[clean]

[dirty]

results1
Results

t(60) = 7.27, p < .001

Schwitalla (2010)

results2
Results

Schwitalla (2010)

1 cf / 1fb correct

all four correct

simple

more simple correct

complex

% of 5;0 – 6;1 year olds

% of 7;8 - 10;8 year olds

results3
Results

Schwitalla (2010)

% of 7;8 - 10;8 year olds

simple

complex

developmental test1
Developmental Test

Pilz (2005)

1st Transformation 2nd Transformation

top shelf

boy‘s room

too short

mother

puts

sweets

OR

bottom shelf

girl‘s room

boy comes girl comes

slide13
TASK

Today mother puts sweets into the top box.

Memory 1: Where are the sweets now?

Future Hypothetical Event

What will happen with the sweets, when the boy comes looking for sweets? Where will the sweets be? [boy´s room]

Look, the boy comes along looking for sweets. He finds them in the top box

and takes them to his room!

Memory 2: Where are the sweets now?

Counterfactual Event

But what, if not the boy but the small girl had come along looking for sweets. Where would the sweets be? [top shelf]

too short

results4
RESULTS

Rafetseder et al (2010)

and now
And now?

A typical false belief task, e.g. the Maxi task, can be solved by 4 year olds…

counterfactual reasoning and false belief
Counterfactual Reasoningand False Belief

Story: Peter – a firefighter – feelsseekandgoestobed.

Sally – hiswife – goestothedrugstoretogetsomemedicine.

While Sally isaway, thesirenssound: fire in the post office.

Peter rushestothe post officetohelpput out thefire.

Test: Counterfactualquestion: „If there had been no fire,

where would Peter be?“

False belief question: „Wheredoes Sally think, Peter is?“

Participants: n = 28; 3;11 – 4;10

Riggs et al. (1998)

results5
Results

none correct

1 cf / 1fb correct

all four correct

more cf correct

Counterfactual

False belief

Riggs et al. (1998)

r = 0.86, p < 0.01

consider1
Consider!

The counterfactualquestionofthefirefightertaskcanbesolvedwith „countertofact“ assumptions.

Anychildwhounderstandsthatthecounterfactualquestionasks a consequencethatis different fromrealitymightanswerwith „home“ – theonlyotherpossibleanswer in thestory.

if there are two other possibilities
If there are two other possibilities…

2 possibilities

1 possibility

Rafetseder & Perner (2010)

χ2 (N = 133) = 33.6, p < .001)

Young children can reason hypothetically with counter-to-factassumptions but no evidence of counterfactual reasoning.

open question
Open Question

If we use our „difficult“ CF-scenario and add an FB-question, will the FB-question still be as or more difficult than the CF-question?

developmental test2
Developmental Test

Pilz (2005)

1st Transformation 2nd Transformation

top shelf

boy‘s room

too short

mother

puts

sweets

OR

bottom shelf

girl‘s room

boy comes girl comes

simple condition
Simple Condition

Today mother puts sweets into the bottom box.

Look, the girl comes along looking for sweets. She finds them in the bottom box

and takes them to her room! Sheiswearingboy‘sjacket. Mother thinksit was the

boy.

CounterfactualQuestion:

But what, if not the girl but the boy had come along looking for sweets. Where would the sweets be? [boy’s room]

False belief question:

Wheredoesthemotherthinkthatthesweetsare? [boy’s room]

complex condition
Complex Condition

Today mother puts sweets into the top box.

Look, the boy comes along looking for sweets. He finds them in the top box

and takes them to his room! He duckswhen he sneaks back tohisroom. Mother

thinksit was thelittlegirl.

CounterfactualQuestion:

But what, if not the boy but the small girl had come along looking for sweets. Where would the sweets be? [top shelf]

False belief question:

  • „Wheredoesthemotherthinkthatthesweetsare? [top shelf]

too short

simple vs complex condition
Simple vs. Complex Condition

Simple Condition

  • Setup: Sweets are on bottom
  • shelfandgirltakesthemto her
  • room.
  • Hypotheticalreasoning
  • Ifboycomesthen, sweetsgo
  • tohisroom. [boy‘sroom]
  • Counterfactualreasoning
  • Sweets were on bottomshelf. Ifboyhadcome, theywouldhavegonetohisroom. [boy‘sroom]

=

Complex Condition

Setup: Sweets are on top shelf

and boy takes them to his room.

Hypothetical reasoning

If little girl comes then, sweets go

to her room. [girl‘s room]

Counterfactual reasoning

Sweets were on top shelf. If little

girl had come, they would have

stayed there. [top shelf]

results6
Results

Beforepartiallingage out:

Simple: r = 0.48, p< 0.001

Complex: r = 0.58, p< 0.001

After partiallingage out:

Simple: r = 0.48, p< 0.001

Complex: r = 0.49, p< 0.001

Hofer (2010)

results7
Results

% of 12;4 – 14;10 year olds

% of 7;0 – 8;10 year olds

complex cf

complex fb

% of 9;3 – 11;0 year olds

% of adults

how are cf and fb connected
How are cf and fb connected?

Simple Condition

  • Setup: Sweets are on bottomshelfandgirltakesthemto her room.Sheiswearingboy‘sjacket.
  • False belief ofthemother: thatitistheboy
  • Hypotheticalreasoning(countertofact)
  • Ifboycomesthen, sweetsgotohisroom. [boy‘sroom]
  • Counterfactualreasoning
  • Ifboyhadcome, sweetswouldhavegonetohisroom. [boy‘sroom]
how are cf and fb connected1
How are cf and fb connected?
  • ComplexCondition
  • Setup: Sweets are on top shelfandboytakesthemtohisroom. He duckswhen he sneaks back tohisroom.
  • False belief ofthemother: thatitisthegirl
  • Hypotheticalreasoning(countertofact)
  • Ifgirlcomesthen, sweetsgoto her room. [girl ‘s room]
  • Counterfactualreasoning
  • Ifgirlhadcome, sweetswouldhavestayed on top shelf. [top shelf]
conclusion
Conclusion

Simple Condition

  • Howdoestheworldlookfromtheperspectiveofanotherperson?
  • Counter tofactreasoning

Complex Condition

  • How does the world look from the perspective of the other person and what can one conclude from that?

Counterfactual reasoning

thanks to
Thanks to

Louisa Hacking

Josef Perner

Maria Schwitalla

Children

Andy Fugard

Christine Hofer

Sabrina Ecker