Is understanding regret dependent on developments in counterfactual thinking?
Article first published online: 23 DEC 2010
2009 The British Psychological Society
British Journal of Developmental Psychology
Volume 27, Issue 2, pages 505–510, June 2009
How to Cite
Beck, S. R. and Crilly, M. (2009), Is understanding regret dependent on developments in counterfactual thinking?. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 27: 505–510. doi: 10.1348/026151008X401697
- Issue published online: 23 DEC 2010
- Article first published online: 23 DEC 2010
- Received 29 September 2008; revised version received 3 December 2008
Children's understanding of counterfactual emotions such as regret and relief develops relatively late compared to their ability to imagine counterfactual worlds. We tested whether a late development in counterfactual thinking: understanding counterfactuals as possibilities, underpinned children's understanding of regret. Thirty 5- and 6-year-olds completed tasks assessing counterfactual thinking and understanding regret. Performance on the counterfactual task was better than that on the regret task. We suggest that thinking about counterfactuals as possibilities is a necessary but not sufficient cognitive development in children's understanding of regret. We discuss how other developments in counterfactual thinking may underpin children's emotional understanding.