Introduction If I needed to describe the distance between two cities, I could provide an answer consisting of a single number in miles, kilometers, or some other unit of linear measurement. However, if I were to describe how to travel from one city to another, I would have to provide more information than just the distance between those two cities; I would also have to provide information about the direction to travel, as well. The kind of information that expresses a single dimension, such as linear distance, is called a scalar quantity in mathematics.
Overview[ edit ] The term "Counterfactual" is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as contrary to the facts. A person may imagine how an outcome could have turned out differently, if the antecedents that led to that event were different.
For example, a person may reflect upon how a car accident could have turned out by imagining how some of the factors could have been different, for example, If only I hadn't been speeding These alternatives can be better or worse than the actual situation, and in turn give improved or more disastrous possible outcomes, If only I hadn't been speeding, my car wouldn't have been wrecked or If I hadn't been wearing a seatbelt, I would have been killed.
Ideas that create a more negative outcome are downward counterfactuals and those thoughts that create a more positive outcome are considered upward counterfactuals.
They can also affect how they view social situations, such as who deserves blame and responsibility. Byrne in The Rational Imagination: How People Create Alternatives to Reality proposed that the mental representations and cognitive processes that underlie the imagination of alternatives to reality are similar to those that underlie rational thought, including reasoning from counterfactual conditionals.
More recently, counterfactual thinking has gained interest from a psychological perspective. Cognitive scientists have examined the mental representations and cognitive processes that underlie the creation of counterfactuals.
Although negative affect and biases arise, the overall benefit is positive for human behavior. First, there is the activation portion. This activation is whether we allow the counterfactual thought to seep into our conscious thought. The second portion involves content.
This content portion creates the end scenario for the antecedent. It is believed that humans tend to think of counterfactual ideas when there were exceptional circumstances that led to an event, and thus could have been avoided in the first place.
We also tend to create counterfactual ideas when we feel guilty about a situation and wish to exert more control.
For example, in a study by Davis et al. In the case of a death of natural causes, parents tended to counterfactual think to a lesser extent over the course of time. This is especially true when there is a negative outcome that was this close to a positive outcome.
For example, in a study by Meyers-Levy and Maheswaran, subjects were more likely to counterfactual think alternative circumstances for a target if his house burned down three days after he forgot to renew his insurance versus six months after he forgot to renew his insurance.
Therefore, the idea that a final outcome almost occurred plays a role in the reason we emphasize that outcome. One of the functional reasons for this is to correct for mistakes and to avoid making them again in the future.
If a person is able to consider another outcome based on a different path, they may take that path in the future and avoid the undesired outcome.
It is obvious that the past cannot be changed, however, it is likely that similar situations may occur in the future, and thus we take our counterfactual thoughts as a learning experience. Risk aversion psychology Another reason we continue to use counterfactual theory is to avoid situations that may be unpleasant to us, which is part of our approach and avoidance behavior.
Often, people make a conscious effort to avoid situations that may make them feel unpleasant. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes find ourselves in these unpleasant situations anyway. In these situations, we continue to use counterfactual thinking to think of ways that that event could have been avoided and in turn to learn to avoid those situations again in the future.
Behavior intention[ edit ] We continue to use counterfactual thoughts to change our future behavior in a way that is more positive, or behavior intention. This can involve making a change in our behavior immediately after the negative event occurred. By actively making a behavioral change, we are completely avoiding the problem again in the future.
An example, is forgetting about Mother's Day, and immediately writing the date on the calendar for the following year, as to definitely avoid the problem. Past studies have shown that counterfactuals serve a preparative function on both individual and group level.
When people fail to achieve their goals, counterfactual thinking will be activated e. When they engage in upward counterfactual thinking, people are able to imagine alternatives with better positive outcomes.
The outcome seems worse when compared to positive alternative outcomes. This realization motivates them to take positive action in order to meet their goal in the future.
For events that happen repeatedly e. For one-time events, however, the opportunity to improve future performance does not exist, so it is more likely that the person will try to alleviate disappointment by imagining how things could have been worse.
The direction of the counterfactual statement is also indicative of which function may be used.There is an underappreciated paradox of knowledge that plays a pivotal role in our advanced hyper-connected liberal democracies: the greater the amount of information that circulates, the more we rely on so-called reputational devices to evaluate it.
"Examples Of Paradoxical Techniques Scenario" Essays and Research Papers Examples Of Paradoxical Techniques Scenario Backlighting: The main source of light is behind the subject, silhouetting it, and directed toward the camera.
Paradoxical Agenda Setting (PAS)—Basic Concepts and Techniques* By David D. Burns, M.D.
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