RuCCS Colloquia

The Relations Between Causal (x2) and Counterfactual Reasoning, the Hindsight Bias and Regret (and the kitchen sink)

Barbara A. Spellman

Tuesday, March 09, 2004, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Dept. of Psychology, University of Virginia

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The Relations Between Causal (x2) and Counterfactual Reasoning, the Hindsight Bias and Regret (and the kitchen sink).

The research areas of causal and counterfactual reasoning, hindsight bias and regret, have often been studied in isolation.  I suggest that there are common mechanisms shared by these various types of judgments.
     To start, I distinguish two types of causal reasoning: the types of judgments we make in science when we have multiple examples of causes and effect and the types of judgments we make in law when we want to figure out the cause of a one-time only event.  I argue that these judgments are related in that we are making estimates of probabilities before and after a cause occurs.  But for one-time events, how can we make probability estimates?  I suggest that such judgments rely, in part, on counterfactual reasoning.
   I argue that the hindsight bias is also implicit in causality judgments because we typically make such probability estimates after events have unfolded.  Finally, I show that regret is both a counterfactual and causal emotion -- it depends on knowing (after the fact) that what you might have done could have changed an outcome.
        Noting how these types of judgments are related can be used to explain "if-only" and "even-if" effects (i.e., how counterfactual reasoning affects causal judgments) and "action" and "inaction" effects in regret judgments.  It also suggests ways in which the hindsight bias can be de-biased.  I hope to relate these analyses to other types of reasoning and judgment tasks.

Barbara A. Spellman


The RuCCS Colloquia Series is organized by Dr. Julien Musolino and Dr. Sara Pixley. The talks are held on Tuesdays in the Psychology Building, Room 101 on the Busch Campus from 1:00-2:30pm.

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