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The goals of counterfactual possibilities

  • Paolo Legrenzi (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 March 2008

Why do humans imagine alternatives to reality? The experiments conducted by Byrne explain the mental mechanisms we use when we do just this – that is, imagine one, or more, alternative reality. But why do we do this? The general reason is to give ourselves an explanation of the world, to tell stories; at times to console ourselves, and at times to despair. A good story is not only based on a description of what happened, but also hints at, or explains, what might have happened. Depending on our aim, we construct different kinds of counterfactuals. In all cases, however, we are faced with constraints. These constraints are specific to a given domain of beliefs and use of counterfactuals.

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C. Resche (2004) Investigating “Greenspanese”: From hedging to “fuzzy transparency.” Discourse and Society 15:723–44.

L. Surian , S. Caldi & D. Sperber (2007) Attribution of beliefs by 13-month-old infants. Psychological Science 18:580–86.

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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