Belief and Counterfactuality: A teleological theory of belief attribution



Rafetseder E & Perner J (2018) Belief and Counterfactuality: A teleological theory of belief attribution. Zeitschrift fur Psychologie, 226 (2), pp. 110-121.

The development and relation of counterfactual reasoning and false belief understanding were examined in 3- to 7-year-old children (N=75) and adult controls (N=14). The key question was whether false belief understanding engages counterfactual reasoning to infer what somebody else falsely believes. Findings revealed a strong correlation between false belief and counterfactual questions even in conditions in which children could commit errors other than the reality bias (rp=.51). The data suggest that mastery of belief attribution and counterfactual reasoning is not limited to one point in development but rather develops over a longer period. Moreover, the rare occurrence of reality errors calls into question whether young children's errors in the classic false belief task are indeed the result of a failure to inhibit what they know to be actually the case. The data speak in favour of a teleological theory of belief attribution and challenges established theories of belief attribution.

Counterfactual Reasoning; Basic Conditional Reasoning; False Belief; Teleology-in-Perspective.

Zeitschrift fur Psychologie: Volume 226, Issue 2

FundersGerman Research Foundation
Publication date30/04/2018
Publication date online14/03/2018
Date accepted by journal23/12/2017

People (1)


Dr Eva Rafetseder

Dr Eva Rafetseder

Senior Lecturer, Psychology

Projects (1)