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J Exp Child Psychol. 2019 Jul;183:261-275. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2019.02.007. Epub 2019 Mar 28.

Counterfactual thinking and age differences in judgments of regret and blame.

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Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402, USA.


In the current study, we examined whether two different counterfactual thinking biases (i.e., action  bias and temporal order bias) influence children's and adults' judgments of regret and blame and whether the perspective that participants take (i.e., self vs. other) affects blame attributions. Little evidence was found for either bias in young children's judgments, and at older ages the temporal order bias had a stronger influence on judgments compared with the action bias. In addition, the results provide new evidence suggesting that there are developmental changes in the effects of self versus other perspectives on children's social judgments. The findings are discussed in the context of developmental change in counterfactual thinking.


Children’s judgments of blame; Children’s judgments of regret; Development of counterfactual thinking; Omission bias; Temporal order effect


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