Choices and regrets in children`s counterfactual thinking

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Choices and regrets in children’s
counterfactual thinking
Sarah Beck
University of Birmingham
Patrick Burns, Kevin Riggs, Daniel Weisberg
Counterfactual thinking
• ‘If only I had left the house earlier, I would
have caught the train...’
• ‘I should have set an alarm’
• ‘I almost made it’
• Experience of regret
Why look at development?
• What are children’s capacities?
• Understanding the process of counterfactual
thinking can be easier in earlier stages of a
developing system
• Include more ‘indirect’ measures to tap
children’s abilities (difficulties with formal
language might be avoided in behavioural
tasks?)
Children’s counterfactual thinking and
emotions
Development of
counterfactual thinking
• 3-4 shift (Harris et al,
1996; Riggs et al, 1998)
• Later developments:
– Complex conditionals:
Rafetseder, Cristi-Vargas,
Perner, 2010
– ‘What else could have
happened?’ Beck et al,
2006
– Almosts (Harris, 1997, Beck
& Guthrie, in press)
Development of
counterfactual emotions
• 7 yr olds understand
regret, Guttentag &
Ferrell, 2004
• experience regret,
– Amsel & Smalley, 2000
– 5-6 yrs Weisberg & Beck,
2010
– 6-7 yrs O’Connor et al,
under sub
– 10-11yrs Rafetseder &
Perner, under sub
Why look at counterfactual emotions?
• Cognition and emotion
• Function of counterfactual thinking (e.g.
Roese, 1997)
• Why is there a developmental lag (if there is
one)?
– Spontaneity?
– Domain general constraints (EF)?
– Are we really measuring regret?
Experiencing Counterfactual Emotions
• Simplified CFE game
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Choose between 2 boxes
See contents of chosen box
Rate happiness on scale
See unchosen contents
Re-rate happiness with your box
•
•
Regret and Relief trials
11 5-6, 10 6-7, 10 7-8, 12 adults
Chosen:
2 stickers
Unchosen:
8 stickers (regret)
OR empty (relief)
Weisberg & Beck, 2010, JECP
Experiencing Counterfactual Emotions
• Difference score (first –
second rating)
• -ve = regret, +ve = relief
• All groups showed regret,
and no differences
between groups
• Only 7-8 year olds and
adults experienced relief
5-6 6-7 7-8
years years years adult
1.5
1
0.5
0
regret
relief
-0.5
-1
-1.5
-2
Weisberg & Beck, 2010, JECP
Methodological problems
• The scale
– Difficult to show relief if you are happy winning
first sticker
– Sensitivity?
• Is this a result of double questioning?
– Rafetseder & Perner (under submission).
Improvements to method:
New rating scale
• Children chose between two cards: win/lose tokens
– Regret-Win trials (Win 2/3, could have won 8)
Regret-Lose trials (Lost 2/3, could have won 3)
– Relief-Win trials (Win 2/3, could have lost 3)
Relief-Lose trials (Lost 2/3, could have lost 8)
Results
Age 4-5, n = 55, m = 5;1, r = 4;8 – 5;7, 29 males
Age 5-6, n = 52, m = 6;2, r = 5;8 – 6;7, 27 males
Age 6-7, n = 55, m = 7;3, r = 6;8 – 7;8, 31 males
Regret-Win trials (Win 2/3, could have won 8) – Experienced at 5, p = .001
Regret-Lose trials (Lost 2/3, could have won 3) – Experienced at 5, p < .001
Relief-Win trials (Win 2/3, could have lost 3) – Experienced at 5, p < .001
Relief-Lose trials (Lost 2/3, could have lost 8) – Experienced at 7, p = .010
Weisberg & Beck, under submission
Are these really counterfactual
emotions?
• Do children need to do cf thinking to ‘pass’
our boxes task?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Choose between 2 boxes
See contents of chosen box
Rate happiness on scale
See unchosen contents
Re-rate happiness with your box
“I should have
picked the other
box”
Counterfactual
“I don’t have
those 8 stickers”
Frustration
Weisberg & Beck, in prep.
Are these really counterfactual
emotions?
• “I should have picked the other box”
(counterfactual)
• OR “I don’t have those 8 stickers” (frustration)
• Adult literature suggests that feeling of
responsibility increases likelihood of regret
(Byrne, 2002; Roese & Olson, 1995;
Zeelenberg et al, 1998)
• Correlation between life regrets and
responsibility (Zeelenberg et al, 1998)
Adults making ‘choices’
• Is there really a ‘choice’ in the boxes game?
• Illusion of control (Langer 1975....)
• People who chose a lottery ticket (based on a
picture ) compared to those allocated ticket:
– Less likely to resell
– Value their ticket more
• Even though the decision is arbitrary their
judgments are influenced by the apparent
‘choice’
Choice, Chance and regret
• Children played the boxes game in one of
three conditions:
– Choose which box you win
– Experimenter rolls die to determine which box
– Child rolls die to determine which box
• If children are simply frustrated, this
manipulation shouldn’t affect them
• If they are thinking counterfactually, more
‘regret’ in choice condition.
Weisberg & Beck, under sub.
Choice/Chance experiment
• 5-6yrs N = 101
• 6-7yrs N = 94
• 7-8yrs N = 102
Age (years) and condition
Regret initial-win
%


Regret initial-lose
p
Relief initial-win
p



Relief initial-lose
p



p
n




Age 5 to 6
Choice
No Choice - Child
No Choice - Experimenter
37
32
31
65
44
23
16
50
55
19
6
22
<.001**
.135
.148
76
25
26
13
59
64
11
16
10
<.001**
.222
.259
0
0
3
13
47
61
87
53
36
<.001**
.015*
.450
14
6
19
54
69
58
32
25
23
.548
.222
.148
Age 6 to 7
Choice
No Choice - Child
No Choice - Experimenter
33
27
32
88
56
31
12
33
62
0
11
7
<.001**
.013*
.500
82
30
16
6
63
84
12
7
0
<.001**
.443
†
.024
3
0
3
12
41
81
85
59
16
<.001**
.005*
†
.024
6
7
12
60
71
66
33
22
22
.549
.162
.123
Age 7 to 8
Choice
No Choice – Child
No Choice – Experimenter
37
33
32
92
55
22
5
39
78
3
6
0
<.001**
.009*
.123
97
64
22
3
36
75
0
0
3
<.001**
<.001**
.123
0
3
0
5
45
72
95
52
28
<.001**
.021*
.352
2
3
3
30
55
63
68
42
34
<.001**
.167
.500
Choice, chance and regret
• All three conditions differ from each other on both CFE
• Regret/relief only differ in the choice condition
• Children’s ratings at all ages are influenced by choice
manipulation
• Evidence for counterfactual emotions (in choice)
Weisberg & Beck, in prep.
The child throws condition
• Don’t realise it’s chance – illusion of control
– if IoC might predict a difference between relief
and regret trials.
• Do realise it’s chance but still some
opportunity for counterfactual emotions?
• Adults show counterfactual emotions under
some chance events (e.g. Imagine being
allocated lottery ticket 245 when 246 wins?)
Choice and Chance in regret
• Choice experiment finds evidence for change in
emotion in 5-7 year olds when they make a
choice about the outcome (to some extent when
involved)
• But not when outcome is determined by chance
• Double-questioning can’t be the only problem
• Indirect measures of counterfactual thought
• Counterfactual emotions develop in middle
childhood – involve something more than being
able to answer simple conditional questions.
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