The Spontaneous Counterfactual Inference Task: Misremembering What Might Have Been. Academic Article uri icon


  • Counterfactuals, thoughts about "what might have been," play an important role in causal judgment, emotion, and motivation, and spontaneously arise during daily life. However, current methods to measure spontaneous counterfactual thinking are cumbersome and subjective. The current research adapts a paradigm from the Spontaneous Trait Inference literature to develop the Spontaneous Counterfactual Inference measure (SCFI), which uses false recognition of counterfactual statements as a measure of spontaneous counterfactual thought. Studies 1a and 1b demonstrate that the SCFI is sensitive to precursors of counterfactual thinking: norm violation and counterfactual closeness. Study 2 demonstrates that the SCFI converges with the generation of counterfactual statements in an open-ended writing task. The SCFI also predicts two important consequences of counterfactual thought, blame (Study 3), and intention endorsement (Study 4). The SCFI thus offers a new tool for researchers interested in counterfactual thinking.

published proceedings

  • Pers Soc Psychol Bull

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Smallman, R., Summerville, A., & Lowe, J. C.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Smallman, Rachel||Summerville, Amy||Lowe, Jessica C

publication date

  • December 2022