Skip to content
Show Menu

Children’s Thinking About Counterfactuals and Future Hypotheticals as Possibilities

Two experiments explored whether children’s correct answers to counterfactual and future hypothetical questions were based on an understanding of possibilities. Children played a game in which a toy mouse could run down either 1 of 2 slides. Children found it difficult to mark physically both possible outcomes, compared to reporting a single hypothetical future event, “What if next time he goes the other way …” (Experiment 1: 3–4-year-olds and 4–5-year-olds), or a single counterfactual event, “What if he had gone the other way …?” (Experiment 2: 3–4-year-olds and 5–6-year-olds). An open counterfactual question, “Could he have gone anywhere else?,” which required thinking about the counterfactual as an alternative possibility, was also relatively difficult.