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Preschool children's counterfactual inferences: the causal length effect revisited

Conference Paper


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Abstract


  • Research into young children¿s counterfactual thinking is equivocal about how children¿s counterfactual responses to causal events may be affected by the length of the causal inference required. This study examined the causal length effect in 3- and 4-year-old children (N=87). Children participated in two counterfactual inference tasks involving causally-related sequences of events. One task entailed counterfactual emotional judgements about the experience of characters in stories, whereas the other task entailed a counterfactual inference about a potential alternative outcome to a physical event. Children at each age level were randomly assigned to answer test questions that required a long, medium, or short counterfactual inference. Four-year-olds outperformed 3-year-olds in both tasks, but this age difference was mediated by children¿s language ability. More striking was the complete absence of difference among causal length conditions in both tasks. Our results support other studies that question the nature of the causal length effect in children¿s counterfactual reasoning. We discuss the possibility that children¿s developing understanding of temporal versus causal relationships may account for discrepant findings regarding the causal length effect.

UOW Authors


  •   Chan, Amy
  •   Scott, Jessica C.. (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2008

Citation


  • Chan, A. Y. C.. & Scott, J. C. (2008). Preschool children''s counterfactual inferences: the causal length effect revisited. In N. Voudouris & V. Mrowinski (Eds.), Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference (pp. 105-109). Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3029&context=hbspapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/hbspapers/1976

Start Page


  • 105

End Page


  • 109

Place Of Publication


  • www.apsconference.com.au

Abstract


  • Research into young children¿s counterfactual thinking is equivocal about how children¿s counterfactual responses to causal events may be affected by the length of the causal inference required. This study examined the causal length effect in 3- and 4-year-old children (N=87). Children participated in two counterfactual inference tasks involving causally-related sequences of events. One task entailed counterfactual emotional judgements about the experience of characters in stories, whereas the other task entailed a counterfactual inference about a potential alternative outcome to a physical event. Children at each age level were randomly assigned to answer test questions that required a long, medium, or short counterfactual inference. Four-year-olds outperformed 3-year-olds in both tasks, but this age difference was mediated by children¿s language ability. More striking was the complete absence of difference among causal length conditions in both tasks. Our results support other studies that question the nature of the causal length effect in children¿s counterfactual reasoning. We discuss the possibility that children¿s developing understanding of temporal versus causal relationships may account for discrepant findings regarding the causal length effect.

UOW Authors


  •   Chan, Amy
  •   Scott, Jessica C.. (external author)

Publication Date


  • 2008

Citation


  • Chan, A. Y. C.. & Scott, J. C. (2008). Preschool children''s counterfactual inferences: the causal length effect revisited. In N. Voudouris & V. Mrowinski (Eds.), Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference (pp. 105-109). Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society.

Ro Full-text Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3029&context=hbspapers

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/hbspapers/1976

Start Page


  • 105

End Page


  • 109

Place Of Publication


  • www.apsconference.com.au