Rafetseder E, O'Brien C, Leahy B & Perner J (2021) Extended difficulties with counterfactuals persist in reasoning with false beliefs: Evidence for Teleology-in-Perspective. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 204, Art. No.: 105058.
Increasing evidence suggests that counterfactual reasoning is involved in false belief reasoning. Because existing work is correlational we developed a manipulation that revealed a signature of counterfactual reasoning in participants’ answers to false belief questions. In two experiments we tested 3- to 14-year-olds and found high positive correlations (r = .56 and r = .73) between counterfactual and false belief questions. Children were very likely to respond to both questions with the same answer, also committing the same type of error. We discuss different theories and their ability to account for each aspect of our findings and conclude that reasoning about others’ beliefs and actions requires similar cognitive processes as using counterfactual suppositions. Our findings question the explanatory power of the traditional frameworks, theory theory and simulation theory, in favour of views that explicitly provide for a relationship between false belief reasoning and counterfactual reasoning.
Teleology-in-perspective; Counterfactual reasoning; False belief; Adaptive modeling; Theory theory; Simulation theory
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology: Volume 204