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An inquiry into the psychology of counterfactuals Read, Daniel 1986

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AN INQUIRY INTO THE PSYCHOLOGY OF COUNTERFACTUALS By DANIEL READ B.A., The U n i v e r s i t y of Ottawa, 1984 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Psychology We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the r e q u i r e d standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August, 1986 © D a n i e l Read, 1986 I n p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f t h e o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a , I a g r e e t h a t t h e L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and s t u d y . I f u r t h e r a g r e e t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y p u r p o s e s may be g r a n t e d by t h e h e a d o f my d e p a r t m e n t o r by h i s o r h e r r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s u n d e r s t o o d t h a t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l n o t be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r an a d v a n c e d d e g r e e a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y D e p a r t m e n t o f The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a 1956 Main Mall V a n c o u v e r , Canada V6T 1Y3 )E-6 (3/81) i i A b s t r a c t The r e l a t i o n s h i p between events and the way people imagine they "might have happened" was e x p l o r e d . A s y n t h e s i s of norm theory (Kahneman & M i l l e r , 1986) and s l i p p a b i l i t y ( H o f s t a d t e r , 1979) i n c o r p o r a t i n g the concept of a n a r r a t i v e l e v e l at which events with a h i g h p r o b a b i l i t y of evoking imagined a l t e r n a t i v e s was proposed as a framework f o r study. To t e s t a number of hypotheses d e r i v e d from t h i s t h e o r e t i c a l framework, a r e c o g n i t i o n task was used: s u b j e c t s f i r s t read s t o r i e s and then i n d i c a t e d which of a number of a l t e r n a t i v e s to the s t o r i e s they had thought of while r e a d i n g . I t i s demonstrated that events at the n a r r a t i v e l e v e l have a higher p r o b a b i l i t y of being changed in imagination than other events. In a d d i t i o n , while the outcomes of suspenseful s i t u a t i o n s are r e a d i l y changed, t h e i r premises are not. O v e r a l l , the r e c o g n t i o n technique i s shown to be a u s e f u l method for determining the a v a i l a b i l i t y of a l t e r n a t i v e s . Table of contents 111 Abstract L i s t of Tables Acknowledgements Introduction Theory Empirical studies of counter factual judgements Indirect studies Direct Measures Methodological issues Hypotheses Method Subjects Materials Procedure Results Questionnaire properties Tests of Hypotheses Analysis of Covariance Di scussion Hypotheses tested Exploratory Analysis Conclusions References Appendix 11 iv 1 0 1 0 1 5 20 22 27 27 27 28 29 29 30 37 38 38 43 47 48 55 i v L i s t o f t a b l e s T a b l e 1. Mean R e c o g n i t i o n l e v e l o f a l t e r n a t i v e s 50 t o b a s e b a l l game s c e n a r i o T a b l e 2. Mean R e c o g n i t i o n l e v e l o f a l t e r n a t i v e s 51 t o b a s e b a l l game s c e n a r i o T a b l e 3. Mean R e c o g n i t i o n l e v e l o f a l t e r n a t i v e s 52 t o b a s e b a l l game s c e n a r i o T a b l e 4. Top 10 and bot t o m 10 a l t e r n a t i v e s 53 r a n k e d by r e c o g n i t i o n l e v e l V Acknowledgements G r a t i t u d e i s due t o my s u p e r v i s o r : D a n i e l Kahneman; t o t h e members o f my t h e s i s c o m m i t t e e : J e n n i f e r C a m p b e l l , Ray C o r t e e n and E r i c h E i c h ; t o t h e s o c i a l c o g n i t i o n team a t Simon F r a s e r U n i v e r s i t y : D a l e M i l l e r , K a t h y M c F a r l a n d and B i l l T u r n b u l l ; and t o my c l o s e f r i e n d s : V a l e r i e W h i f f e n , Gordon Murphy and S t e p h e n G o r m i c a n . T h e i r c o n t r i b u t i o n s t o t h i s e s s a y a r e t o o d i v e r s e t o i t e m i z e . 1 A l l of us b e l i e v e that there are ways the world might have turned out d i f f e r e n t l y . A c t u a l events do not d i f f e r much from other ones t h a t might have o c c u r r e d . When we t h i n k something might have happened otherwise, we seem to imagine a p o s s i b l e world s i m i l a r i n many r e s p e c t s to the one that e x i s t s , but a l s o d i f f e r i n g i n some more or l e s s s i g n i f i c a n t way (Lewis, 1973). That we t h i n k i n t h i s way, or at l e a s t act as i f we do, i s t e s t i f i e d to by our l i n g u i s t i c h a b i t s , such as a w i l l i n g n e s s to say that something "almost" happened, or that " i f only I had bought shares i n IBM ten years ago, I would be r i c h " . The f o l l o w i n g example was taken from a recent newspaper a r t i c l e : S e v e r a l b u l l e t s s h a t t e r e d the bathroom m i r r o r of a West End apartment dweller today a f t e r another r e s i d e n t of the b u i l d i n g went on a shooting spree with a r i f l e . P o l i c e s a i d i t was a m i r a c l e no was i n j u r e d by the f l y i n g b u l l e t s ... . They s a i d about f i v e shots were f i r e d through the w a l l i n t o Apt. 305, s h a t t e r i n g a m i r r o r i n the bathroom. The occupant of 305, Randy Baker, s a i d : " I t ' s lucky I wasn't shaving." (Shots whiz, p.2.). The p o l i c e b e l i e v e d i t was a m i r a c l e no one was hurt, because they imagine somebody might have been i n the path of those b u l l e t s , and Mr Baker thought about other p l a c e s he might have been when the b u l l e t s s t r u c k . These statements i l l u s t r a t e three c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of p o s s i b l e world (or counter f a c t u a l ) statements that are worthy of note. F i r s t , c o u n t e r f a c t u a l statements are common and e a s i l y comprehended. Second, we 2 generate counterfactuals or counterfactual-referent statements (eg. "It was a miracle that ...") spontaneously, e f f o r t l e s s l y and frequently. Thus, I imagine not that Mr Baker thought a long time to come up with a publishable quip but that t h i s was the f i r s t thing that came into his mind. Third, not just any variants on situations are spontaneously brought to mind, but those that do seem in some way to be appropriate or expected. Although the tenant could feasibly have offered the less c o l o r f u l "Its lucky he didn't shoot into the l i v i n g room where I was watching TV," we would not expect "It's lucky he [the rifleman] didn't have a bazooka." Some counterfactuals are not l i k e l y to spontaneously arise in a given s i t u a t i o n . Even such a cursory examination of counterfactuals reveals their considerable i n t r i n s i c i nterest. This has not been lost on philosophers, records of whose interest in the possible date back to the time of A r i s t o t l e . Leibniz, the ancestor of the present philosophy of possible worlds, argued that God had had at His disposal a multitude of possible worlds which could be made actual, and that our world received that d i s t i n c t i o n because i t was the best of a l l possible worlds. Leibniz's d e i s t i c premise and his optimistic c o r o l l a r y have not withstood the c r i t i c i s m s of other philosophers, but his b e l i e f in possible worlds has become a c r u c i a l point of reference for students of modality. The concern of these philosophers centers around the ontological status of possible worlds, modal logic (cf. Loux, 1979 for an overview) and the interpretation 3 of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l c o n d i t i o n a l s (Goodman, 1973). The c o n j u n c t i o n of the i n t e r e s t s of p h i l o s o p h e r s with our own i n t u i t i o n s a t t e s t s that p o s s i b l e world statements are more than a l i n g u i s t i c h a b i t or t r i c k ; they have a compelling p s y c h o l o g i c a l r e a l i t y . It i s s u r p r i s i n g , t h e r e f o r e , that p s y c h o l o g i s t s have not p a i d more a t t e n t i o n to the modality of our mental r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of the world. Recently, the sub j e c t of modality has begun to appear i n p s y c h o l o g i c a l j o u r n a l s ( c f . Abelson, 1983; Kahneman & Tversky, 1981; Kahneman & M i l l e r , 1986; Marcus, i n p r e s s ) , and i t seems p o s s i b l e that the psychology of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s i s a t o p i c whose time has come. T h i s essay i s one such c o n t r i b u t i o n . I t comprises three main p a r t s : a d e s c r i p t i o n of some t h e o r e t i c a l c o n t r i b u t i o n s in the psychology of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s , a review of pr e v i o u s e m p i r i c a l work, and a pr o p o s a l f o r f u r t h e r r e s e a r c h . Theory Kahneman and M i l l e r (1986) and H o f s t a d t e r (1979) have proposed frameworks f o r models of c o g n i t i v e p r o c e s s i n g and o r g a n i z a t i o n which account f o r some i n t u i t i o n s about c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s . T h i s s e c t i o n comprises a b r i e f d e s c r i p t i o n of these models and of an o r g a n i z a t i o n a l system adapted from them. Norm theory (Kahneman and M i l l e r , 1986) i s an inst a n c e model of comparative judgement i n c o r p o r a t i n g many i n t u i t i o n s about the nature of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s . F i r s t , experiences or 4 events are compared against, among other things, alternatives constructed retrospectively. Second, some events appear to bring more of these alternatives to mind than do others. Third, the same event w i l l evoke some alternatives more readily than others. Kahneman and M i l l e r proposed that an event f i r s t activates a process of recruitment of norm elements; that i s , the rememberance of a l t e r n a t i v e events and the construction of comparable ones. These norm elements d i f f e r in their a v a i l a b i l i t y -- e s s e n t i a l l y the ease with which they come to mind in response to a probe (Tversky and Kahneman, 1973). The weight of their contribution to subsequent processes i s proportional to t h i s a v a i l a b i l i t y . Once recruited, norm elements are decomposed into a set of feature or a t t r i b u t e representations c a l l e d sub-norms; these are density functions describing the range and frequency of values the features are predicted to hold based on their values in individual elements. The parameters of a sub-norm density function are provided by the remembered or constructed i n s t a n t i a t i o n of the feature (providing the mode), a p r i o r i assumptions about the feature v a r i a b i l i t y (variance), and the a v a i l a b i l i t y of the element (height). Each single feature's sub-norms are combined to y i e l d a norm for that feature. A norm i s another density function, t h i s time of normality ratings for a l l the values a feature can hold. The maxima of the norm is assigned a normality value of one, and the normality of each feature of 5 an event i s the height of the density function at the location of the experienced value of the feature. The o v e r a l l normality of an event i s a lin e a r combination of weighted normality ratings obtained for every one of i t s a t t r i b u t e s . The weights correspond to the importance of the individual attributes to the perceiver of the event. Some counterfactuals are l i k e l y to occur to us more than others, and we imagine alternatives to some events more than others. Norm theory's account for these differences i s that two hypothesized properties of features, their normality and mutability, influence both the kinds of counterfactuals recruited, and our experience of them. F i r s t , i t i s proposed that abnormal values of features w i l l r e c r u i t normal al t e r n a t i v e s , but that normal features w i l l not recruit abnormal ones. Thus, normal events w i l l , a l l things being equal, have the highest p r o b a b i l i t y of being recruited as altern a t i v e s to stimulus events. To i l l u s t r a t e , the altern a t i v e s recruited in response to meeting a one-eyed man w i l l include some two-eyed men, but w i l l probably exclude one armed men: the man's abnormal features w i l l be compared to normal ones, but his normal features w i l l not be s i m i l a r l y compared to abnormal ones. Relative normality i s also advanced to explain why some events are experienced as more evocative of al t e r n a t i v e s . The normality of an event cannot d i r e c t l y influence the number of i t s remembered or constructed alte r n a t i v e s because normality is a retrospective judgement 6 made only after the cal c u l a t i o n of norms. However, the alternatives recruited to a normal event are similar both to the event and to one another. Phenomenologically, the normal event i s indistinguishable from i t s a l t e r n a t i v e s . On the other hand, since an abnormal event is by d e f i n i t i o n d i s s i m i l a r to either prior or probable occurrences, the alter n a t i v e s i t recr u i t s diverge widely both from the event and amongst themselves. Thus, we imagine a two eyed man to evoke less alternatives than the one eyed man because whereas the l a t t e r i s quite d i s t i n c t from his al t e r n a t i v e s , the former i s not. The r e l a t i v e mutability of a feature is r e f l e c t e d in the v a r i a b i l i t y of i t s instantiations among recruited elements r e l a t i v e to that of other features. This property of norms i s dependent upon a p r i o r i knowledge about the d i s t r i b u t i o n s of features amongst the members of a class of events (cf Fried & Holyoak, 1984). This d i s t r i b u t i o n a l knowledge provides information about feature v a r i a t i o n and covariation. Amongst the elements recruited to an event, some features w i l l be held constant, others w i l l vary freely and yet others w i l l vary together. Consequently, the alternatives recruited to a red haired man w i l l contain men of d i f f e r i n g hair colour but w i l l l i k e l y exclude red haired members of d i f f e r e n t species: although hair colour can vary considerably amongst the the class of men, the species cannot. Mutability i s a function of situation demands as well as knowledge about a t t r i b u t e v a r i a b i l i t y . For example, an airplane can be compared to other 7 t h i n g s that f l y , or to other modes of t r a n s p o r t a t i o n . In the former case i t i s f l i g h t which i s immutable r e l a t i v e to other c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s ; i n the l a t t e r case i t i s the a b i l i t y to move th i n g s from one place to another which i s l e s s mutable. Kahneman and M i l l e r (1986) acknowledged that f e a t u r e s of events kept constant or allowed to vary i n imagination are i n f l u e n c e d by the s i t u a t i o n , but they a l s o suggested that some c l a s s e s of changes are more f r e q u e n t l y experienced than o t h e r s . For example, changes to the e x c e p t i o n a l are hypothesized to be more a v a i l a b l e than symmetrical changes to the r o u t i n e . Thus, while the l a t e a r r i v a l of a r e l i a b l e employee r e c r u i t s a punctual countercomparative, the e a r l y a r r i v a l of the same employee does not r e c i p r o c a l l y r e c r u i t a tardy one. Presumably, an exception has abnormal values of fe a t u r e s and consequently evokes d i s t i n c t i v e a l t e r n a t i v e s . Another hypothesized tendency i s to imagine changes to e f f e c t s more r e a d i l y than corresponding changes to causes. For example, suppose we see John punch Robert, who responds by s m i l i n g . Both a c t i o n s are abnormal, but i f the event can be compared to only one a l t e r n a t i v e , John's punch (the cause) i s p r e d i c t e d to remain constant while Robert's smile (the e f f e c t ) v a r i e s . While the asymmetry between r o u t i n e s and exceptions i s ex p l a i n e d as a consequence of d i f f e r e n c e s i n n o r m a l i t y , the asymmetry between cause and e f f e c t i s e x p l a i n e d as a consequence of d i f f e r e n c e s i n m u t a b i l i t y . H o f s t a d t e r (1979, 1986) introduced the concept of 8 s l i p p a b i l i t y to e x p l a i n d i f f e r e n c e s i n the a v a i l a b i l i t y of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l a l t e r n a t i v e s . The s l i p p a b i l i t y of any f e a t u r e of an event depends on "a set of nested c o n t e x t s i n which the event (or circumstance) i s p e r c e i v e d to occur." ( H o f s t a d t e r , 1979, p.643). H o f s t a d t e r d i v i d e s these c o n t e x t s i n t o three broad c l a s s e s , corresponding to some (not u n a s s a i l a b l e ) i n t u i t i o n s about r e l a t i v e s l i p p a b i l i t y or m u t a b i l i t y . The f i r s t c l a s s , l a b e l l e d c o n s t a n t s , comprises constant constants and background assumptions. Constants are g l o b a l c o n d i t i o n s that s l i p i n f r e q u e n t l y . Constant c o n s t a n t s are f i x e d premises such as p h y s i c a l or l o g i c a l laws, while background assumptions, s l i g h t l y l e s s r i g i d , i n c l u d e such t h i n g s as r e g u l a t i o n s or g e o g r a p h i c a l l o c a t i o n s . The second c l a s s , parameters, i n c l u d e s i n t e r m e d i a t e l y s l i p p a b l e a t t r i b u t e s e x e m p l i f i e d by the weather or the date. The t h i r d c l a s s , v a r i a b l e s , comprises those t h i n g s f r e q u e n t l y and r e a d i l y changed -- presumably, the bulk of spontaneous c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s are generated by a l t e r i n g var i a b l e s . In s h o r t , H o f s t a d t e r argues that events are p e r c e i v e d h i e r a r c h i c a l l y , with elements in the h i e r a r c h y p r o v i d i n g a context f o r t h e i r s u b o r d i n a t e s . The idea that we p e r c e i v e experiences to be organized in t h i s way i s i n t u i t i v e l y c o m p e l l i n g . However, although H o f s t a d t e r appears to maintain that each lower l e v e l i s more s l i p p a b l e than the h i g h e r , t h i s i s not r e f l e c t e d i n our everyday use of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s . The f o l l o w i n g three f a c t s about a p o s s i b l e murder mystery 9 i l l u s t r a t e t h i s point: A body has been found in a room that appeared to be locked from the inside with no possible point of egress; the detective solves the crime when he discovers the murderer was a Houdini-like magician in his youth and had frequently performed a famous "locked room" t r i c k ; and the unveiling of the v i l l a i n occurs in the dining room. The f i r s t of these facts provide part of the superstructure of the story. Without the body in the room, we would not want to say that the story is in any way the "same" story. The second of these facts is incorporated in the narrative. If the murderer had not been revealed in this way, the story could go along pretty much as before, although i t would be d i s s i m i l a r from the actual story. The t h i r d fact is a supporting d e t a i l . If the unveiling occurred in the l i v i n g room or the kitchen, i t would make l i t t l e or no difference to the progress of the story. Only at what I have lab e l l e d the narrative l e v e l are counterfactuals l i k e l y to be generated. The v i c i s s i t u d e s of the narrative l e v e l are a function of attention (what we pay attention to i s perceived as more s i g n i f i c a n t than what we ignore), which is in turn dependent upon the time of an event's occurrence (what was once narrative becomes superstructure or supporting d e t a i l ) , our motivation (some things are more important to our l i v e s than others) and the salience of events. To integrate this notion with norm theory, i t i s proposed that only a limited subset of our environment is paid s u f f i c i e n t attention for the processes of recruitment of elements and norm 10 c o n s t r u c t i o n to occur; p r i o r to any norm r e l a t e d processes, the world of our experience i s segmented to i s o l a t e s i g n i f i c a n t events or n a r r a t i v e s from the mass of experience. Our p r e c a t e g o r i c a l i n t u i t i o n s about c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s are complex, and the f o r m u l a t i o n s of Kahneman & M i l l e r and H o f s t a d t e r (which I have attempted to i n t e g r a t e ) p r o v i d e a framework f o r t h e i r systematic examination. C o u n t e r f a c t u a l s can be compared as they occur between the d i f f e r e n t l e v e l s of the event (corresponding roughly to s l i p p a b i l i t y ) , between d i f f e r e n t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s or f e a t u r e s of the event ( m u t a b i l i t y ) , and between the p a r t i c u l a r values those f e a t u r e s can take ( n o r m a l i t y ) . H e r e a f t e r , I w i l l r e f e r to these comparisons between p r o p e r t i e s as r e s p e c t i v e l y l e v e l  comparisons, f e a t u r e comparisons, and value comparisons. E m p i r i c a l S t u d i e s of Counter f a c t u a l Judgements Research i n t o the psychology of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s has focussed e i t h e r on t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p to the emotions, or on t h e i r d i f f e r e n t i a l a v a i l a b i l i t y . T h i s s e c t i o n comprises a b r i e f survey of t h i s l i t e r a t u r e . I n d i r e c t s t u d i e s Counter f a c t u a l t h i n k i n g i s r e l a t e d to a f f e c t in two ways. F i r s t , counter f a c t u a l emotions (Kahneman and Tversky, 1 982) l i k e r e l i e f or r e g r e t are the consequence of mental comparisons 11 between a c t u a l and imagined s t a t e s . Second, c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s serve to a m p l i f y or otherwise a l t e r the experience of emotion (Heider, 1958; Kahneman and M i l l e r , 1986). Kahneman and Tversky (1982) d e f i n e d only a c l u s t e r of negative emotions as c o u n t e r f a c t u a l i n o r i g i n ( i n c l u d i n g f r u s t r a t i o n and r e g r e t ) , but t h e i r d e f i n i t i o n can be extended to i n c l u d e p o s i t i v e emotions. These emotions occur when one's hedonic a d a p t a t i o n l e v e l i s d i f f e r e n t than one's hedonic s t a t e , "as i f the u n r e a l i z e d p o s s i b i l i t i e s were weighted i n t o the a d a p t a t i o n l e v e l , by weights that correspond to the ease with which these p o s s i b i l i t i e s are reached i n mental s i m u l a t i o n . " (Kahneman & Tversky, 1982, p. 206). Thus people assess t h e i r own w e l l being, and p o s s i b l y that of o t h e r s , on the b a s i s of d e v i a t i o n s from the most r e a d i l y a v a i l a b l e a l t e r n a t i v e s to the present s t a t e . Johnson (1986) i n v e s t i g a t e d t h i s h ypothesis by e l i c i t i n g judgements about the welfare of people who experienced " c l o s e " outcomes that were e i t h e r p o s i t i v e l y or n e g a t i v e l y v a l e n c e d . The s u b j e c t s read two s c e n a r i o s , each d e s c r i b i n g a day i n the l i f e of a student. The s c e n a r i o s concluded with e i t h e r p o s i t i v e , n egative, n e u t r a l , near p o s i t i v e or near n e g a t i v e outcomes. Students e x p e r i e n c i n g near negative outcomes ( f o r example, the student was almost k i l l e d when a balcony she had r e c e n t l y been s i t t i n g i n c o l l a p s e d ) were judged to be l u c k i e r , and expected to be more s a t i s f i e d and happier than students e x p e r i e n c i n g the near p o s i t i v e outcome ( f o r example, almost won 12 a prize in the sweepstakes). This provides support for Kahneman and Tversky's claim that the hedonic states of others are estimated by treating the most available alternative to the present condition as i f i t were a neutral or baseline point, and then adjusting upward or downward from that point. Other studies r e l a t i n g emotions to the psychology of p o s s i b i l i t y have examined the a f f e c t i v e consequences of varying the proximity or a v a i l a b i l i t y of alternative outcomes. Heider speculated that "when a person almost obtains what he desires or almost loses what he i s enjoying, additional emotional nuances occur." (Heider, 1958, p. 141). Heider referred to studies of the relationship between "nearly" achieving a desired goal and emotions l i k e anger or f r u s t r a t i o n . One study by Dembo (1931, c i t e d in Heider, 1958), involved measuring the anger of subjects after they played a game requiring them to throw ten rings around a peg. Subjects who almost succeeded at t h i s task were angrier than those for whom success was never l i k e l y . Heider argued that as the "psychological distance" between an event and i t s desired a l t e r n a t i v e decreases, the amplitude of the emotional response to the event increases. Kahneman and Tversky hypothesized that the psychological distance from a counterfactual outcome is proportional to the ease with which i t s occurrence can be simulated, and that the a f f e c t e l i c i t e d by an outcome is inversely proportional to the ease of simulation. The l a t t e r proposal was tested (Kahneman and Tversky, 1982) by presenting subjects with the following scenario: 1 3 Mr. C and Mr. D were scheduled to leave the a i r p o r t on d i f f e r e n t f l i g h t s at the same time. They t r a v e l e d from town in the same l i m o u s i n e , were caught i n a t r a f f i c jam, and a r r i v e d at the a i r p o r t 30 minutes a f t e r the scheduled departure time of t h e i r f l i g h t s . Mr. D i s t o l d that h i s f l i g h t l e f t on time. Mr. C i s t o l d that h i s f l i g h t was delayed, and l e f t only 5 minutes ago. Who i s more upset? Ninety s i x percent of the respondents to t h i s q u e s t i o n thought that Mr. C was the most upset of the two men. There i s no d i f f e r e n c e between the o b j e c t i v e s i t u a t i o n of the two men, and consequently Kahneman and Tversky argued that Mr. C can more e a s i l y imagine something happening e i t h e r to keep the a i r p l a n e on the ground longer, or to get him to the a i r p o r t sooner. Kahneman and M i l l e r (1986) showed that outcomes f o l l o w i n g abnormal or e x c e p t i o n a l a c t i o n s y i e l d enhanced a f f e c t i v e consequences. Subjects r e p o r t e d that a man would be l e s s upset i f i n v o l v e d i n an a c c i d e n t while d r i v i n g home on h i s r e g u l a r route than on an i r r e g u l a r one. S i m i l a r l y , a man used to p i c k i n g up h i t c h - h i k e r s would experience l e s s r e g r e t i f a t t a c k e d by one than a man who was a t t a c k e d by h i s f i r s t h i t c h -h i k e r . Once again, i t appears that i t i s e a s i e r f o r the most d i s a p p o i n t e d of these men to imagine not a c t i n g i n a p a r t i c u l a r way, and hence a v o i d i n g the a c c i d e n t . M i l l e r and McFarland (In press) t e s t e d the g e n e r a l i z a b i l i t y of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between the a v a i l a b i l i t y of a l t e r n a t i v e s and emotion. They reasoned that v i c t i m s of m i s f o r t u n e would e l i c i t g r e a t e r sympathy i f t h e i r f a t e was 1 4 abnormal rather than normal. Their measure of sympathy was the amount of compensation subjects believed the victim should be awarded. In one scenario, subjects read of a man who had been shot while in a convenience store. In the normal version, the store was the one regularly used by the man; in the abnormal version, the store was one rarely used by the man. As predicted, subjects awarded s i g n i f i c a n t l y more money to the victim of the abnormal fate. In a second scenario, subjects read about a man who had died in a plane crash in northern Canada. The man had attempted to walk to safety, but died of exposure before finding help. In the normal version, the man died 75 miles from town; in the abnormal version, he died 1/4 mile from town. Once again, subjects recommended substantially higher awards in the l a t t e r condition. The studies described above provide ample evidence for the involvement of something l i k e possible worlds in emotional responses. However, they include no direct evidence that alternatives e l i c i t i n g amplified a f f e c t i v e responses are also more available; rather the i n t u i t i o n s of the experimenters about what constitutes a near outcome have been used as independent variables. Establishing such a d i r e c t link between the emotions and the counterfactuals evoked by experiences w i l l undoubtedly be an important topic of future research. To date, only a few attempts to d i r e c t l y measure the a v a i l a b i l i t y of counterfactuals have been made, and these studies w i l l be reviewed in the next section. 1 5 Direct Measures Most of the research in counterfactual a v a i l a b i l i t y has taken the following form: an asymmetry between the ease of generating alternatives to the features or to the feature values of experiences i s proposed, and this is tested by presenting subjects with one or more scenarios containing a manipulation of the proposed asymmetry and then asking for some indication of the subjects thoughts about what might have happened. Tests of several such hypotheses are described below. Exceptions and routine. The asymmetric relationship between the emotional consequences of exceptional and routine acts has already been described. In order to c a l l such an emotion "counterfactual", however, i t i s necessary to demonstrate that routine acts are highly available alternatives to exceptions, and that the reverse is not the case. Kahneman and Tversky (1982) tested this value comparison hypothesis by giving subjects a story to read in which a man has a f a t a l accident while driving home from work, and then asking what they thought the family and friends of the victim would say to conclude sentences s t a r t i n g with "If only One version of the story contained the following passage: On the day of the accident, Mr Jones l e f t his o f f i c e at the regular time. He sometimes l e f t early to take care of chores at h i s wife's request, but t h i s was not necessary on that day. Mr. Jones d i d not d r i v e home by h i s r e g u l a r route. The day was e x c e p t i o n a l l y c l e a r and Mr. Jones t o l d h i s f r i e n d s at the o f f i c e t h a t he would d r i v e along the shore to enjoy the view. In another v e r s i o n , the same passage was a l t e r e d to read thus On the day of the a c c i d e n t , Mr Jones l e f t the o f f i c e e a r l i e r than u s u a l , t o a t t e n d to some household chores at h i s wife' s request. He drove home along h i s r e g u l a r route. Mr. Jones o c c a s i o n a l l y chose t o d r i v e home along the shore, to enjoy the view on e x c e p t i o n a l l y c l e a r days, but that day was j u s t average. In the f i r s t v e r s i o n i t i s Mr. Jones's route that i s e x c e p t i o n a l , i n the second v e r s i o n i t i s the time of h i s departure from the o f f i c e t h a t i s abnormal. In the "route" v e r s i o n of the s c e n a r i o , of the changes made to e i t h e r route time, 94% were made to the ro u t e . In the "time" v e r s i o n , the corr e s p o n d i n g percentage was 33%. C l e a r l y people are more prone to mentally w i l l an unusual act undone than a r o u t i n e one. F o c a l and p e r i p h e r a l A c t o r s . Kahneman and M i l l e r (1986) proposed that d e t a i l s to which a t t e n t i o n i s p a i d are more mutable than background d e t a i l s . T h i s h y p othesis l e d to the p r e d i c t i o n that the a c t i o n s of people who are the focus of a t t e n t i o n w i l l be more r e a d i l y a l t e r e d than the a c t i o n s of p e r i p h e r a l ones. In one study (Read, 1986a), s u b j e c t s were f i r s t taught the r u l e s of a s i m p l i f i e d v e r s i o n of poker, and then shown the cards h e l d by two p l a y e r s , A and B, a f t e r they 17 had played a single game. Either A or B had won the game but by changing one card in either hand t h i s outcome could be changed. Subjects were asked to f i l l in the blanks of a sentence such as "A would have won the hand i f the had been a ." This question directed attention to the outcome of one player (A, in t h i s case) and presumably put that hand into focus. Eighty five percent of the cards changed belonged to the focal player. In another study subjects described how a near c o l l i s i o n was averted. They were given the following scenario: Janet was driving to work along a three-lane road, where the middle lane is used for passing by t r a f f i c from both d i r e c t i o n s . She changed lanes to pass a slow moving truck and quickly r e a l i z e d that she was heading d i r e c t l y for another car coming in the opposite d i r e c t i o n . For a moment, i t looked as i f a c o l l i s i o n was inevitable. However, t h i s did not occur. Please indicate in one sentence how you think the accident was avoided. Eighty percent of the subjects describing the action of just one drivers (90% of the total) ascribed the causal role to Janet. In a t h i r d study, subjects were asked to imagine another automobile accident -- in this case one that occurs -- and then to say how i t might have been avoided. The f i r s t version of the story was as follows: Roger was driv i n g his truck to the warehouse when the accident occurred. His truck h i t a tremendous bump in the road and part of i t s payload, a crate f u l l of machinery, f e l l onto the street in front of the car 18 which was c l o s e behind. The d r i v e r of the car d i d not have enough time to swerve to av o i d the c r a t e , and he was i n j u r e d i n the ensuing a c c i d e n t . Please d e s c r i b e , i n one sentence, how t h i s a c c i d e n t c o u l d have been avoided. In response to t h i s q u e s t i o n , 68% of the respondents s a i d the ac c i d e n t c o u l d have been avoided i f Roger's a c t i o n s were d i f f e r e n t -- f o r example, he should have fastene d the payload s e c u r e l y , or been more c a r e f u l and avoided the bump. A n e a r l y i d e n t i c a l q u e s t i o n was given to a d i f f e r e n t group: C a r l was d r i v i n g h i s car to the s t o r e when the a c c i d e n t o c c u r r e d . A truck h i t a tremendous bump i n the road and part of i t s payload, a c r a t e f u l l of machinery, f e l l onto the s t r e e t i n f r o n t of C a r l ' s c a r , which was c l o s e behind. C a r l d i d not have enough time to swerve to a v o i d the c r a t e , and he was i n j u r e d i n the ensuing acc i d e n t . In response to t h i s s t o r y , 71% of s u b j e c t s s a i d that C a r l c o u l d have acted d i f f e r e n t l y — perhaps, as one respondent remarked, by o b s e r v i n g the f i v e second r u l e . Intended and unintended outcomes. B a r s a l o u (1986) has shown that the t y p i c a l i t y of an exemplar i n a category i s i n f l u e n c e d by i t s p r o x i m i t y to an i d e a l . T h i s i n f l u e n c e i s str o n g e s t i n ad hoc c a t e g o r i e s , or c a t e g o r i e s generated to serve an immediate purpose (eg. ways to escape a burning b u i l d i n g . ) Kahneman and M i l l e r (1986) hypothesized that the importance of i d e a l s in category membership r e f l e c t s the high a v a i l a b i l i t y of elements h o l d i n g i d e a l a t t r i b u t e v a l u e s . The 19 f o l l o w i n g two s t u d i e s were t e s t s of a s p e c i f i c p r e d i c t i o n made from t h i s h y p o t h e s i s : that i s , a l t e r n a t i v e s to an event that i n c l u d e changes from an unintended to an intended s t a t e are more a v a i l a b l e than i f they i n c l u d e changes i n the opp o s i t e d i r e c t i o n . The two t e s t s of t h i s h y p o thesis i n v o l v e d a s k i n g s u b j e c t s to imagine changes to the outcomes of games (Read, 1986a). T h i s procedure i s based on the assumption t h a t while winning a game i s an intended outcome, l o s i n g i t i s an unintended one. The f i r s t study used a card game q u e s t i o n n e a r l y i d e n t i c a l to the one d e s c r i b e d above, save that the focus was on n e i t h e r of the p l a y e r s . The s i g n i f i c a n t sentence was as f o l l o w s : "The outcome would have been d i f f e r e n t i f the had been a ." Seventy three percent of the respondents changed a card i n the hand of the l o s e r , thereby making the l o s i n g hand a winner. Other s u b j e c t s were asked f o r t h e i r i n t u i t i o n s about the kinds of statements made a f t e r watching a c l o s e s p o r t i n g event. If l o s e r s are transformed i n t o winners more r e a d i l y than the re v e r s e , then people should make spontaneous statements of the s o r t " I f the Montreal Canadiens had been a l i t t l e more a l e r t they would have won", more f r e q u e n t l y than the e q u a l l y p l a u s i b l e , " I f the Quebec Nordiques had been a l i t t l e l e s s a l e r t they would have l o s t " . S u b j e c t s were asked the f o l l o w i n g quest i o n : With only ten seconds to go i n the i n t r a m u r a l b a s k e t b a l l f i n a l s , the score was 57-56 f o r the Baxter 20 Bouncers over the MacKenzie Dynamos. Then, the Dynamos sunk a d i f f i c u l t basket from the f r e e throw l i n e and the Bouncers missed an easy shot from j u s t under the net. The f i n a l score was MacKenzie: 58; Baxter: 57. Many people w i l l say t h a t the outcome was " c l o s e " . Which of the f o l l o w i n g do you expect to hear such a person say: A. The Bouncers almost made another basket. B. The Dynamos almost missed that l a s t basket. The order of the a l t e r n a t i v e p r e s e n t a t i o n was counterbalanced. As p r e d i c t e d , 81% of those responding to t h i s q u e s t i o n expected people to say that the Baxter Bouncers might have made another basket. M e t h o d o l o g i c a l Issues F o l l o w i n g i s a summary of some l i m i t a t i o n s of the procedures p r e v i o u s l y used to study c o u n t e r f a c t u a l t h i n k i n g , and ways they might be e l i m i n a t e d using the present technique. The new procedure w i l l be d i s c u s s e d i n d e t a i l below (see methodology s e c t i o n ) , but f o r the present the f o l l o w i n g p r e c i s w i l l serve: s u b j e c t s read b r i e f s t o r i e s c o n t a i n i n g a v a r i e t y of i n c i d e n t s , which were f o l l o w e d by l i s t s of a l t e r n a t i v e s to these events. They were then asked to i n d i c a t e items they recognized as having o c c u r r e d to them while r e a d i n g the s t o r i e s . In many previous s t u d i e s s u b j e c t s read b r i e f v i g n e t t e s , which were fo l l o w e d by a q u e s t i o n probing some aspect of counter f a c t u a l t h i n k i n g and a f o r c e d c h o i c e between two responses. T h i s has been a common method of studying emotional 21 a m p l i f i c a t i o n , and has a l s o been used f o r d i r e c t comparisons of a l t e r n a t i v e s (Read, 1986a). Although the f o r c e d c h o i c e procedure i s capable of that one a l t e r n a t i v e i s more a v a i l a b l e than another, i t cannot determine the magnitude of that d i f f e r e n c e . That i s , one a l t e r n a t i v e may be endorsed as more a v a i l a b l e than another e q u a l l y o f t e n whther the d i f f e r e n c e i s l a r g e or s m a l l . The r e c o g n i t i o n method i s designed to address t h i s problem by measuring the a v a i l a b i l i t y of many a l t e r n a t i v e s r e l a t i v e to one another. Presumably, the magnitude of the d i f f e r e n c e i n r e c o g n i t i o n scores between items w i l l r e f l e c t the magnitude of the d i f f e r e n c e i n a v a i l a b i l i t y between them. A f u r t h e r l i m i t a t i o n of the f o r c e d choice procedure i s that i t p r o v i d e s l i t t l e o p p o r t u n i t y f o r s e r e n d i p i t o u s d i s c o v e r y , or e x p l o r a t i o n i n the realm of the p o s s i b l e . Because the proposed new methodology allows the researcher to assess the a v a i l a b i l i t y of s e v e r a l a l t e r n a t i v e s to the same or d i f f e r e n t events, items can be i n c l u d e d to t e s t hunches or i n t u i t i o n s that the r e s e a r c h e r might have. The t h i r d method used i s the method of f r e e r e p o r t . S u b j e c t s are given a s t o r y , then asked to generate an a l t e r n a t i v e to what has o c c u r r e d , or to provide an ending. The problems a r i s i n g from the f o r c e d c h o i c e procedure do not a r i s e with f r e e r e c a l l . However, t h i s procedure a l s o has l i m i t a t i o n s . F i r s t , i t does not permit d i r e c t comparison of p a i r s of a l t e r n a t i v e s . Second, i t p r e s e n t s s c o r i n g d i f f i c u l t i e s because i t i s not always p o s s i b l e to e s t a b l i s h 22 e q u i v a l e n c i e s between responses. T h i s becomes more problematic with i n c r e a s i n g complexity of the evoking s t i m u l u s and i n c r e a s i n g s i m i l a r i t y of responses. Using a r e c o g n i t i o n task permits the experimenter to make p a i r w i s e comparisons of a l t e r n a t i v e s . F u r t h e r , because the a l t e r n a t i v e s are the same between s u b j e c t s i t i s c l e a r which are e q u i v a l e n t and which are not. The above d i s c u s s i o n i s not meant to imply that the new method w i l l supplant other methods of measuring c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s . The hope i s that a number of d i f f e r e n t methods may provide converging evidence p e r m i t t i n g the development of a theory of an e s p e c i a l l y s l i p p e r y phenomena. Hypotheses F o l l o w i n g i s a l i s t of hypotheses t e s t e d i n the present study. Some s t u d i e s of hypotheses 4 and 5 have been rep o r t e d elsewhere, and they are i n c l u d e d i n the present work to both provide converging evidence f o r p r e v i o u s f i n d i n g s , and to give some i n d i c a t i o n of the v a l i d i t y of the r e c o g n i t i o n procedure. Hypotheses 6 and 7 are d e r i v e d from the i n t e g r a t i o n of norm theory (Kahneman & M i l l e r , 1986) with H o f s t a d t e r ' s (1979,1985) s l i p p a b i l i t y d e s c r i b e d above (see theory s e c t i o n . ) The r a t i o n a l e s f o r hypotheses 1 through 3 are d i s c u s s e d below. The types of comparison proposed by the hypotheses are given i n parentheses f o l l o w i n g them. 23 Hypothesis 1. Suspense-related c o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes to outcomes are more a v a i l a b l e than corresponding changes to premises. (Feature comparison.) Hypothesis 2. Suspense-related c o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes in the d i r e c t i o n of i n i t i a t e d outcomes are more a v a i l a b l e than corresponding changes i n the opposite d i r e c t i o n . (Value comparison.) Hypothesis 3. If there i s no d i r e c t i o n of change i n i t i a t e d ( c f . Hypothesis 2) then c o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes making events e i t h e r more d e s i r a b l e or more p o s i t i v e to f o c a l c h a r a c t e r s are more a v a i l a b l e than c o r r e s p o n d i n g changes i n the o p p o s i t e d i r e c t i o n . (Value comparison.) Hypothesis 4. C o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes to the a c t i o n s of f o c a l c h a r a c t e r s are more a v a i l a b l e than corresponding changes to the a c t i o n s of p e r i p h e r a l c h a r a c t e r s . (Feature comparison.) Hypothesis 5. C o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes from e x c e p t i o n a l to r o u t i n e s t a t e s are more a v a i l a b l e than c o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes from r o u t i n e to e x c e p t i o n a l . (Value comparison.) Hypothesis 6. C o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes to the s u p e r s t r u c t u r e of events are l e s s a v a i l a b l e than changes to the n a r r a t i v e of events. ( L e v e l comparison.) Hypothesis 7. C o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes to the supporting d e t a i l s of events are l e s s a v a i l a b l e than changes to the n a r r a t i v e of events. ( L e v e l comparison.) Hypotheses 1 and 2 are p r e d i c t i o n s about the c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s made a v a i l a b l e t o su s p e n s e f u l e x p e r i e n c e s : the consequence of u n c e r t a i n t y about the outcome of s i g n i f i c a n t events, and the accompanying a n t i c i p a t i o n that i t might be something out of the o r d i n a r y . The c l a s s of s u s p e n s e - r e l a t e d c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s a l l u d e d to i n hypothesis 1 was suggested by s i t u a t i o n s of a type d e s c r i b e d by F r a n c o i s T r u f f a u t i n h i s d i s c u s s i o n of A l f r e d H itchcock: 24 A man leaves h i s home, h a i l s a cab and d r i v e s to the s t a t i o n to c a t c h a t r a i n . T h i s i s a normal scene i n an average p i c t u r e . Now, should t h a t man happen to look at h i s watch j u s t as he i s g e t t i n g i n t o the cab and excla i m "Good God, I s h a l l never make that t r a i n ! " t h a t e n t i r e r i d e a u t o m a t i c a l l y becomes a sequence of pure suspense. Every red l i g h t , t r a f f i c s i g n a l , s h i f t of the gears or touch of the brake, and every cop on the way to the s t a t i o n w i l l i n t e n s i f y i t s emotional impact. ( T r u f f a u t , 1967, p. 8.) Imagine t h a t a f t e r the man i s s a f e l y on the t r a i n (there i s a happy ending), he ponders h i s ex p e r i e n c e . What does he imagine might have happened d i f f e r e n t l y ? One p o s s i b i l i t y i s that the man t h i n k s he might have missed the t r a i n . Indeed, the c o u n t e r f a c t u a l emotion of r e l i e f i s a normal response to such a near miss. T h i s i s a c o u n t e r f a c t u a l a l t e r n a t i v e to the outcome. An a l t e r n a t i v e t o the premise would be imagining that he might not have worried so much about c a t c h i n g the t r a i n . C l e a r l y , t h i s i s a much l e s s v i v i d a l t e r n a t i v e , but i t i s nonetheless p l a u s i b l e : c e r t a i n l y i t i s p o s s i b l e to r e g r e t worrying overmuch about something t h a t , i n r e t r o s p e c t , seems not worth the t r o u b l e . Presumably, t h i s r e g r e t would be the consequence of a h i g h l y a v a i l a b l e a l t e r n a t i v e i n which worrying does not occur. Hypothesis 2 i s based on the r e l a t e d idea that s u s p e n s e f u l events have a momentum in the d i r e c t i o n of a p a r t i c u l a r s t a t e or outcome which, even i f not r e a l i z e d , i s nonetheless very v i v i d to the imag i n a t i o n . Consider the f o l l o w i n g s c e n a r i o : One extremely hot day Harry was d r i v i n g a barren 25 s t r e t c h of highway when, m i l e s from any populated area, h i s c a r ' s temperature s t a r t e d to i n c r e a s e . Harry continued d r i v i n g , n e rvously watching the temperature gauge, but managed to a r r i v e s a f e l y i n the nearest town where he was able to e f f e c t r e p a i r s . I wish to c o n t r a s t two a l t e r n a t i v e s to Harry's e x p e r i e n c e . In one, h i s car i s never i n danger of o v e r h e a t i n g ; i n the other, the car overheats while he i s on the highway. The p r e c e d i n g d i s c u s s i o n of the a v a i l a b i l i t y of e x c e p t i o n a l and r o u t i n e a l t e r n a t i v e s might l e a d to a p r e d i c t i o n that the e x c e p t i o n a l s t a t e (overheated car) would be l e s s a v a i l a b l e than the r o u t i n e s t a t e (car of normal temperature). Nonetheless I suspect few readers w i l l f i n d t h i s to be the case. The c h a i n of imagined events set i n motion by the c a r ' s o v e r h e a t i n g need not be l i m i t e d by the o b j e c t i v e outcome, but can c a r r y forward to the most extreme of p o s s i b l e outcomes. Johnson's (1986) study ( d e s c r i b e d above) of the e f f e c t of near outcomes on emotion suggests that an abnormal " c l o s e outcome" w i l l be more a v a i l a b l e than i t s normal c o u n t e r p a r t . Hypothesis 3 was prompted by r e s u l t s from an unpublished study (Read, 1986b). Subjects read p a i r s of sentences a s c r i b i n g incongruous a t t r i b u t e s to a person and then were asked to i n d i c a t e which a t t r i b u t e , i f any, they would change to reduce t h i s i n c o n g r u i t y . There was a strong tendency to i n d i c a t e a p r e f e r e n c e f o r changing the l e a s t p l e a s a n t or l e a s t d e s i r a b l e of the a t t r i b u t e s . To i l l u s t r a t e take the f o l l o w i n g p a i r of sentences: 26 A. She i s good at math. 25% B. She i s a poor student. 75% When given the same sentences with the a d j e c t i v e s r e v e r s e d , 87% of a d i f f e r e n t group of s u b j e c t s s a i d that they would change the sentence "She i s poor at math." Other p a i r s of a t t r i b u t e s were b e a u t i f u l / u n p o p u l a r * , uneducated* /makes $75000 a year, has a doctorate/makes $15000 a year*, small/clumsy*, smokes h e a v i l y * / i s a v e g e t a r i a n (the a s t e r i s k i n d i c a t e s the member of the p a i r changed more f r e q u e n t l y ) . In response to a l l of these p a i r s more s u b j e c t s i n d i c a t e d they would p r e f e r to change the u n d e s i r a b l e member more than the d e s i r a b l e . M a t l i n and Stang (1978) have proposed the Pollyanna P r i n c i p l e to e x p l a i n a host of converging data from seemingly u n r e l a t e d s t u d i e s . The p r i n c i p l e i s , in b r i e f , the t h e s i s t hat "[people p r o c e s s ] p l e a s a n t items ... more a c c u r a t e l y and e f f i c i e n t l y than unpleasant or n e u t r a l items." (p. 3). M a t l i n and Stang do not address the is s u e of a v a i l a b i l i t y , but they do re p o r t a host of s t u d i e s showing t h a t , i n almost a l l aspects of c o g n i t i o n , people p r e f e r to think about d e s i r a b l e rather than u n d e s i r a b l e t h i n g s . The range of f i n d i n g s they report i s s u f f i c i e n t l y broad to suggest i t s g e n e r a l i z a b i l i t y to the study of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l g e n e r a t i o n . Hypothesis 3, the Pollyanna h y p o t h e s i s , i s such a g e n e r a l i z a t i o n . Method Subjec t s The s u b j e c t s were 122 v o l u n t e e r s from undergraduate 27 classes in S t a t i s t i c s at Simon Fraser University or in Social Psychology at University of B r i t i s h Columbia. I excluded the resu l t s from two subjects because their questionnaires were incomplete. Materials The stimulus materials comprised three scenarios, and two sets of seven alternatives to the events in each scenario. Scenarios were three brief stories describing a baseball game, a burglary and a day-trip to Stanley Park. The baseball game story describes how a young g i r l named Helen, l i v i n g in a small ru r a l community, defies convention by playing baseball at the annual picnic held by the youth of a small r u r a l community. In the burglary story a t h i e f , named Terry, breaks into a second storey apartment and removes a l l of i t s valuables. F i n a l l y , the day-trip story recounts the experiences of a family of four who spend the day at the park. The alternatives were generated with the purpose of testing s p e c i f i c hypotheses (described below) and to y i e l d s u f f i c i e n t data for an exploratory look at counterfactual thinking (complete text of scenarios and a l l alternatives are contained in appendix 1). Four d i f f e r e n t questionnaire forms were derived from these materials. A l l three scenarios were contained in each form, with the baseball game and robbery scenarios counterbalanced in the f i r s t and second positions, and the day-trip scenario always in the t h i r d p o s i t i o n . Following each scenario was one of i t s alternative 28 s e t s . T h u s , t h e f o u r q u e s t i o n n a i r e f o r m s w e r e o b t a i n e d by c r o s s i n g o r d e r o f p r e s e n t a t i o n o f t h e b a s e b a l l game s c e n a r i o w i t h a l t e r n a t i v e s e t . P r o c e d u r e Q u e s t i o n n a i r e s w e r e d i s t r i b u t e d t o s u b j e c t s d u r i n g t h e f i n a l h a l f h o u r o f c l a s s t i m e . S u b j e c t s w e r e i n f o r m e d t h a t t h e i r p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h e s t u d y was v o l u n t a r y . T h e y w e r e i n s t r u c t e d t o p r o c e e d t h r o u g h t h e b o o k l e t one p a g e a t a t i m e w i t h o u t r e a d i n g b a c k o r a h e a d . E a c h s c e n a r i o was p r e c e d e d by a n i n s t r u c t i o n t o i m a g i n e "a s v i v i d l y a s p o s s i b l e " t h e i n c i d e n t s i t r e c o u n t e d . The f i r s t s c e n a r i o was f o l l o w e d by t h e s e i n s t r u c t i o n s : W h i l e r e a d i n g s t o r i e s s u c h a s t h i s o n e , p e o p l e o f t e n t h i n k o f o t h e r ways t h i n g s m i g h t h a v e t u r n e d o u t . F o l l o w i n g a r e s e v e r a l a l t e r n a t i v e s t h a t m i g h t h a v e o c c u r r e d t o y o u w h i l e r e a d i n g t h i s s t o r y . P l e a s e i n d i c a t e w h e t h e r y o u t h o u g h t a b o u t e a c h p o s s i b i l i t y a n d , i s s o , t o wha t e x t e n t by u s i n g t h e f o l l o w i n g r a t i n g s c h e m e : 0 . D i d n ' t o c c u r t o me . 1. M i g h t h a v e o c c u r r e d t o me. 2 . D e f i n i t e l y o c c u r r e d t o me. P l e a s e p l a c e a n X n e x t t o t h e a p p r o p r i a t e r a t i n g E a c h s u b s e q u e n t s t o r y was f o l l o w e d by a n i n s t r u c t i o n r e m i n d i n g s u b j e c t s o f t h i s r a t i n g s c h e m e . F i f t e e n m i n u t e s o f c l a s s t i m e was a l l o t t e d t o t h i s t a s k . R e s u l t s The t h r e e s c o r i n g c a t e g o r i e s , " d i d n ' t o c c u r t o m e " , " m i g h t 29 have o c c u r r e d to me", and " d e f i n i t e l y o c c u r r e d to me", were ass i g n e d r e c o g n i t i o n scores of 0 , 1 and 2, r e s p e c t i v e l y . R e s u l t s were then analyzed by conducting repeated measures analyses of v a r i a n c e (ANOVA) to a s c e r t a i n c o m p a r a b i l i t y of the s t o r i e s , the a l t e r n a t i v e s e t s and the order of p r e s e n t a t i o n of s t o r i e s 1 and 2. Next, hypotheses 1 through 4 were t e s t e d by m u l t i v a r i a t e analyses of v a r i a n c e (MANOVA) comparing p a i r s of a l t e r n a t i v e s a c r o s s a l l three forms. Hypothesis 5 was t e s t e d by a one-way ANOVA, and hypotheses 6 and 7 were t e s t e d using dependent groups t - t e s t s . Q u e s t i o n n a i r e P r o p e r t i e s A 2 by 2 by 2 way ( s t o r y by order by a l t e r n a t i v e s e t , with s t o r y as a w i t h i n s u b j e c t s f a c t o r ) repeated measures ANOVA on the t o t a l s cores f o r s c e n a r i o s 1 and 2 (the b a s e b a l l game and robbery s c e n a r i o s ) r e v e a l s only an u n i n t e r p r e t a b l e order by a l t e r n a t i v e set i n t e r a c t i o n , F(1,116) = 6.9, p < .01. T h i s i s a consequence of d i f f e r e n c e s i n responses between a l t e r n a t i v e s e t s when they were presented i n the second p o s i t i o n . O v e r a l l , these d i f f e r e n c e s are not l a r g e , and the c o r r e l a t i o n c o e f f i c i e n t between scores on i n d i v i d u a l a l t e r n a t i v e s when presented f o l l o w i n g f i r s t or second s c e n a r i o i s 0.793. A 3 by 2 way ( s t o r y by a l t e r n a t i v e set) repeated measures ANOVA on the scores f o r a l l three s c e n a r i o s produces a s i g n i f i c a n t e f f e c t f o r s t o r y , F(2,236)=8.02, p < .001. Examination of means shows that scores on the d a y - t r i p 30 scenario's alternatives are lower than the scores to either the baseball game or robbery scenario. Tests of hypotheses Hypotheses 1 through 4 were tested by contrasting the recognition scores to pairs of alternatives in the same position on the two alte r n a t i v e sets. The o v e r a l l MANOVA comparing scores to the nine pairs of such responses is s i g n i f i c a n t , F(9,110) = 15.45, p < .001. Univariate F-tests show support for hypotheses 1, 2 and 3 but not for hypothesis 4. Hypothesis 5, when tested with a one way ANOVA on the pooled responses to two pairs of alt e r n a t i v e s , was supported. Hypotheses 6 and 7 were analyzed in the following manner. One alternative set of each story described an event either at the l e v e l of superstructure or supporting d e t a i l . Individual subjects' recognition scores for these events were contrasted with individual subjects' mean scores for a l l narrative level changes to the same story's events. These two hypotheses were supported. The mean response l e v e l for a l l alternatives to the scenarios are in tables 1 to 3. Hypothesis 1. The prediction that changes w i l l be made to the outcomes rather to the premises of suspense was tested by comparing two alte r n a t i v e p a i r s . The protagonist (Terry) in the 31 robbery scenario does not know how long the occupants of the house she i s robbing w i l l be away. To t h i s , the following a l t e r n a t i v e s were given: Outcome: The occupants of the apartment come home when Terry is there. Premise: Terry knows how long the occupants of the house w i l l be away. The univariate F-test for this comparison reveals r e l i a b l e differences in the predicted d i r e c t i o n , F(1,116)=47.66, p < .001. A pair of alternatives to the day-trip scenario provided a second test of hypothesis 1. In the story, the weatherman predicts rain, but the children's father is ske p t i c a l . Following are the alternatives provided: Outcome: It rains while they are at the park. Premise: The weatherman predicted there would be sunshine. The results of this comparison, although in the predicted d i r e c t i o n , are not s i g n i f i c a n t , F(1 ,1 16) = 3.15, p < .08. Overall, hypothesis 1 receives some support. Hypothesis 2. The hypothesis that suspenseful experiences w i l l evoke alternatives in the d i r e c t i o n of the i n i t i a t e d outcome was tested using three pairs of alternatives. F i r s t , when the protagonist (Helen) of the baseball game scenario joins the group of boys waiting to be selected by the team captains some boys are dismayed at her desire to play. The two altern a t i v e s to th i s situation were: 32 Towards outcome: The boys openly c h a l l e n g e Helen when she t r i e s to p l a y . Away from outcome: The boys welcome Helen on the team from the o u t s e t . The r e s u l t s of t h i s comparison are i n the p r e d i c t e d d i r e c t i o n and h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t , F(1,116) = 32.39, p < .001. The robbery s c e n a r i o p rovided another t e s t . T e r r y has d i f f i c u l t y opening the window when she f i r s t a r r i v e s at the apartment. To t h i s , the f o l l o w i n g a l t e r n a t i v e s were given: Towards outcome: T e r r y cannot open the window. Away from outcome: The window i s unlocked. The r e s u l t s of t h i s comparison are not s i g n i f i c a n t , F(1,116) = .125, p < .725. A t h i r d t e s t i s of a l t e r n a t i v e s to the day-t r i p s c e n a r i o . While the f a m i l y i s at the park, a goose chases and t r i e s to b i t e the f a t h e r . The f o l l o w i n g a l t e r n a t i v e s to t h i s s i t u a t i o n were compared: Towards outcome: The goose manages to b i t e John's f a t h e r . Away from outcome: The goose does not chase John's f a t h e r . T h i s comparison y i e l d s s i g n i f i c a n t r e s u l t s i n the d i r e c t i o n p r e d i c t e d , F(1,116) = 9.58, p < .002. O v e r a l l , hypothesis 2 r e c e i v e d some support. Hypothesis 3 Comparison of two a l t e r n a t i v e p a i r s t e s t e d the h y p o t h e s i s that imaginary changes towards outcomes more 33 desirable than the current one are more l i k e l y than changes toward less desirable outcomes. In the baseball game scenario, Helen h i t s a t r i p l e . The following alternatives to t h i s were compared: Positive outcome: Helen gets a home run. Negative outcome: Helen gets a double. Responses to these two alternatives are s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t in the predicted d i r e c t i o n , F(1,116)=29.65, p < .001. The second test matched alternatives to the day t r i p scenario. In this story, the two children go to look at the polar bears, who are l i s t l e s s and unexciting. The two alternatives to t h i s were: Positive outcome: The polar bears were l i v e l y . Negative outcome: The polar bears could not be seen. Again, the results of th i s comparison are in the predicted d i r e c t i o n , but not s i g n i f i c a n t , F(1,116) = 3.48, p < .065. Once again, the hypothesis was given moderate support. Hypothesis 4. A further two pairs of alternatives tested the hypothesis that counterfactual changes to the actions of focal characters are more available than corresponding changes to peripheral characters. In the baseball game scenario, Helen shares the duties of l e f t f i e l d e r with another teenager, who does not permit Helen to catch any of the b a l l s that come their way. Helen i s the focal actor, whereas the boy i s peripheral. The alternatives are: 34 Focal: Helen does not l e t the other Left Fielder catch a l l the b a l l s . Peripheral: The other Left Fielder l e t s Helen catch some of the b a l l s . The results are in the predicted d i r e c t i o n , but non-s i g n i f i c a n t , F(1,118) = 1.99, p <.16. The day t r i p scenario includes a second test. John and Cindy decide they do not want to ride on the miniature t r a i n , although their parents do. The parents take the t r a i n anyway. The alternatives to th i s are: Focal: John and Cindy ride on the miniature t r a i n . Peripheral: The parents do not ride on the miniature t r a i n . The results of the comparison are also non-significant, F(1, 1 1 8 ) = 1.17, p<.28.) Therefore, hypothesis 4 was unsupported. Hypothesis 5. To test hypothesis 5 the scores from four alternatives were compared: two involving changes from the from exceptional to routine outcomes, and two the reverse. The two alternatives making exceptional events routine were: (A) In the baseball game scenario, the alternative to the pitcher throwing an especially slow pitch to Helen i s , The pitcher throws an average pitch to Helen. (B) In the robbery scenario, although the burglar is said to rarely steal s e c u r i t i e s , she does on this occasion. The alter n a t i v e to t h i s i s : Terry does not steal the s e c u r i t i e s 35 The two a l t e r n a t i v e s making r o u t i n e e v e n t s e x c e p t i o n a l were: (C) In t h e b a s e b a l l game s c e n a r i o , none o f t h e t h e g i r l s u s u a l l y p l a y b a s e b a l l . The a l t e r n a t i v e t o t h i s i s : A l l t h e g i r l s d e c i d e t o p l a y b a s e b a l l t h i s y e a r . (D) In t h e day t r i p s c e n a r i o , C i n d y e a t s l o t o f ca n d y and s u b s e q u e n t l y c o m p l a i n s o f i l l n e s s . O v e r i n d u l g i n g i n candy i s s a i d t o be u s u a l f o r h e r . The a l t e r n a t i v e t o t h i s i s : C i n d y does n o t e a t a l o t of c a n d y . The r e c o g n i t i o n s c o r e s f r o m a l t e r n a t i v e s A & B and B & C were summed, and t h e s e two " g r o u p s " were compared u s i n g a one way ANOVA. The means a r e i n t h e p r e d i c t e d d i r e c t i o n , and t h e ANOVA i s h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t , F ( 1 , 238) = 21.19, p < .001. However, t h i s r e s u l t must be i n t e r p r e t e d w i t h c a u t i o n b e c a u s e a l t e r n a t i v e D i s from s c e n a r i o 3, and t h e mean s c o r e f o r a l t e r n a t i v e s t o s c e n a r i o 3 i s l o w e r t h a n t o s c e n a r i o s 1 and 2. H y p o t h e s i s 6. To t e s t t h e h y p o t h e s i s t h a t c h a n g e s a t t h e l e v e l o f s u p e r s t r u c t u r e a r e i n f r e q u e n t r e l a t i v e t o c h a n g e s at. t h e n a r r a t i v e l e v e l , s c o r e s f o r t h e f o l l o w i n g a l t e r n a t i v e s were c o n t r a s t e d w i t h s c o r e s f o r a l l n a r r a t i v e l e v e l a l t e r n a t i v e s on t h a t a l t e r n a t i v e s e t . The a l t e r n a t i v e s a r e : ( B a s e b a l l game s c e n a r i o ) : The b a s e b a l l game i s c a n c e l l e d . ( R o b b e r y s c e n a r i o ) : T e r r y d e c i d e s i t i s t o o r i s k y t o r o b t h i s h o u s e . ( D a y - t r i p s c e n a r i o . ) : The f a m i l y does n o t go t o S t a n l e y P a r k . 36 Within s u b j e c t s t - t e s t f o r a l l three comparisons were s i g n i f i c a n t with r e s p e c t i v e v a l u e s of t(62)=-14.23 , p < .001; t(58)=-7.80, p < .001; t(62)=-7.60, p < .001. Thus, hypothesis 6 was supported. Hypothesis 7. Once again , the hypothesis that c o u n t e r f a c t u a l changes to the s u p p o r t i n g d e t a i l s of events are l e s s a v a i l a b l e than changes to the n a r r a t i v e l e v e l of events, was t e s t e d by comparing one a l t e r n a t i v e from each s t o r y to n a r r a t i v e l e v e l changes. In the b a s e b a l l game s t o r y , Helen i s i n s t r u c t e d to play l e f t f i e l d and the a l t e r n a t i v e to t h i s i s : Helen i s i n s t r u c t e d t o p l a y i n the r i g h t f i e l d . In the robbery s c e n a r i o , T e r r y sees a man i n the a l l e y walking a dog. The a l t e r n a t i v e i s : (Robbery): The man i n the a l l e y does not have a dog with him. F i n a l l y , i n the d a y - t r i p s c e n a r i o , the f a m i l y gets splashed by a whale at the aquarium. To t h i s , the f o l l o w i n g a l t e r n a t i v e was p r o v i d e d : ( D a y - t r i p ) : They do not get splashed by the whale. Wi t h i n s u b j e c t s t - t e s t f o r a l l three comparisons were s i g n i f i c a n t with r e s p e c t i v e v a l u e s of t(62)=-10.13 , p < .001; t(58)=-2.06, p < .05; t(62)=-4.85, p < .001. Hypothesis 7 was supported. 37 A n a l y s i s of Covariance There i s c o n s i d e r a b l e v a r i a b i l i t y between s u b j e c t s i n the degree to which they w i l l r e p ort a l t e r n a t i v e s as rec o g n i z e d . There are undoubtedly a v a r i e t y of reasons f o r t h i s . These i n c l u d e i n d i v i d u a l d i f f e r e n c e s i n d i s c r i m i n a t i o n between a l t e r n a t i v e s p r e v i o u s l y imagined and not imagined, and in gener a l w i l l i n g n e s s to endorse a l t e r n a t i v e s . In t r a d i t i o n a l s t u d i e s of r e c o g n i t i o n memory, these two components c o u l d be estimated using s i g n a l d e t e c t i o n theory (Green & Swets, 1966). However, t h i s i s impossible i n the present study because the items a c t u a l l y imagined by s u b j e c t s while reading s c e n a r i o s i s unknown. One i n d i c a t o r , a l b e i t i n e x a c t , of a s u b j e c t ' s w i l l i n g n e s s to endorse items i s the average l e v e l of repor t e d r e c o g n i t i o n f o r that subject over a l l items. T h i s value v a r i e s over a wide range: from 0.14 to 1.48 ( mean = .677, SD = .287). In order to estimate what the r e s u l t s would have been i f a l l s u b j e c t s responded e q u i v a l e n t l y , a m u l t i v a r i a t e a n a l y s i s of c o v a r i a n c e (MANCOVA) of the 9 important p a i r e d a l t e r n a t i v e s was c a r r i e d out, with the mean response l e v e l of i n d i v i d u a l s u b j e c t s as a c o v a r i a t e . With one ex c e p t i o n , t h i s a n a l y s i s y i e l d s r e s u l t s s i m i l a r to the pr e v i o u s MANOVA, although with enhanced support f o r many hypotheses. The a n a l y s i s of items t e s t i n g one p r e v i o u s l y n o n - s i g n i f i c a n t e f f e c t (the f o c a l -p e r i p h e r a l asymmetry) i s s i g n i f i c a n t with the i n c l u s i o n of t h i s c o v a r i a t e , F(1,117) = 4.38, p < .039; F(1,117) = 3.31, p < .071). 38 Di s c u s s i o n Hypotheses t e s t e d One r a t i o n a l e f o r i n c l u d i n g t e s t s of two p r e v i o u s l y researched hypotheses (Kahneman & Tversky, 1982; Read, 1986a) was to pr o v i d e an i n d i c a t i o n of the s e n s i t i v i t y of the r e c o g n i t i o n procedure. Of these hypotheses, one was supported u n e q u i v o c a l l y : normal or r o u t i n e a l t e r n a t i v e s are more a v a i l a b l e than abnormal or e x c e p t i o n a l ones (Kahneman & Tversky, 1982). The r e c o g n i t i o n study adds l i t t l e to our understanding of t h i s asymmetry, save that i t g e n e r a l i z e s the r e s u l t s of p r i o r s t u d i e s , and i s an i n d i c a t i o n that t h i s method i s an e f f e c t i v e measure of the a v a i l a b i l i t y of c o u n t e r f a c t u a l s . The second p r e v i o u s l y examined h y p o t h e s i s , the f o c a l -p e r i p h e r a l asymmetry, i s unsupported by MANOVA a n a l y s i s , but supported by MANCOVA. Because t h i s h y p o t h e s i s has r e c e i v e d p r i o r support (Read, 1986a), i t i s important to determine i f t h i s unexpected r e s u l t may be the consequence of d i f f e r e n c e s between p r e v i o u s s t u d i e s and the c u r r e n t one which do not d i r e c t l y r e f l e c t on the h y p o t h e s i s . To t h i s end, an examination of the two s t u d i e s r e v e a l s d i f f e r e n c e s between them in the s e n s i t i v i t y of t h e i r comparisons, and i n t h e i r o p e r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n of the focus c o n s t r u c t . These d i f f e r e n c e s w i l l be d i s c u s s e d in t u r n . 39 Previous studies of the focal-peripheral hypothesis have used within-subjects comparisons in which subjects were either constrained to change the outcome for one character only (card question), or given questions deliberately designed to e l i c i t responses containing changes to one of the two actors. Within-subjects comparisons of t h i s sort w i l l result in a majority of changes being made to the focal character even i f the strength of preference for these changes over those made to the peripheral actor is small. This contrasts with the recognition method used in the present study. Since t h i s involves between subjects comparisons, i t i s important that the measure used be sensitive enough to capture subtle differences in the average a v a i l a b i l i t y of al t e r n a t i v e s , which might be highly susceptible to variations in the c r i t e r i a used by subjects to report recognition. The results of the MANCOVA, intended to compensate for high subject v a r i a b i l i t y in ov e r a l l responding, suggests that this may be a s i g n i f i c a n t factor in the f a i l u r e to fin d strong support for the focal-peripheral hypothesis. In a l l e a r l i e r manipulations of focus, the researcher directed the attention of subjects to the protagonist's fate and, in addition, did not always provide an id e n t i f y i n g label (a name or other symbol) for secondary characters (automobile accident questions). This suggests there may be two separate causes of the focus e f f e c t : empathy (reference) with the protagonist, and the ease with which reference can be made to 40 secondary characters. To i l l u s t r a t e this second possible cause, i t i s easier to respond to the "Janet" question, for example, by re f e r r i n g to Janet rather than to "the other dr i v e r " . In the present study, focus was exclusively inferred from the presumed empathy of the reader with the character protagonists being more focal than secondary characters. There was no difference in ease of reference because subjects merely responded to previously formulated al t e r n a t i v e s . Thus, only one of two possible causes of the focus effect were in force. Even the ef f e c t of empathy may have been reduced because both the protagonists and secondary characters were portrayed interacting with each other ("Whenever the b a l l was h i t in my di r e c t i o n the kid I shared duties with would rush in to catch i t , often coming near to running over me in his enthusiasm.") The empathy resulting from exclusive i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with the protagonist used in prior studies may consequently have been attenuated in the recognition study. Once again, a task for further research i s proposed: separate the effects of empathy and ease of reference, and determine i f focus varies with the extent of perceived involvement of secondary characters in act ions. The prediction that changes to the superstructure or to supporting d e t a i l s are less probable than changes to the narrative l e v e l was supported. For two reasons the mechanism proposed to account for t h i s effect -- a segmentation of events into d i f f e r e n t levels prior to the assessment of mutability or 41 normality -- i s a useful modification of norm theory. F i r s t , i t accounts for d e t a i l s of the phenomenology of counterfactuals not explained by r e l a t i v e mutability. For example, the a l t e r n a t i v e " The man in the a l l e y does not have a dog with him" was rarely recognized. The norm theory analysis of t h i s i s that the dog i s selected a - p r i o r i as an immutable aspect of the s i t u a t i o n . Clearly, t h i s i s unlikely to be the case. The second advantage of the proposed approach i s that, because segmentation into levels reduces the number of a t t r i b u t e s on which the norm processes must work, i t also minimizes the information that must be computed. The remaining hypotheses have not been studied previously, and were of comparisons between alter n a t i v e s at the narrative l e v e l . The two suspense hypotheses were supported. The concept of suspense is useful to explain why some alt e r n a t i v e s which are abnormal, have a low prior p r o b a b i l i t y of occurrence and are also undesirable are nonetheless highly available as a l t e r n a t i v e s . The hypothesis that pleasant or desirable a l t e r n a t i v e s are more available than less pleasant ones was also supported. However, these results must be interpreted cautiously. One test of this hypothesis was a contrast between two pairs of alternatives to Helen's batting performance (see Methods section). Subjects reported greater recognition of an upgrading than a downgrading of t h i s performance. However another a l t e r n a t i v e which was included for exploratory purposes 42 (see below), "Helen s t r i k e s out", received much more endorsement than did the preferable "Helen h i t a double" and was not s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t than "Helen h i t s a home run." This occurred despite Helen's h i t t i n g the b a l l on the f i r s t p i t c h . Perhaps, when an event i s witnessed or experienced, i t may be compared against recruited alternatives which are epitomes of that class of events. These epitomes hold extreme values of the most s i g n i f i c a n t or defining features of the event. In Helen's case, the epitomized performances at bat are s t r i k i n g out and h i t t i n g a home run. Epitomes are similar to what Barsalou (1986) c a l l s ideals, except that ideals are exclusively the extreme values members of ad-hoc categories can have in order to best serve their purpose (eg. the ideal computer has i n f i n i t e memory.) It i s important to both eliminate the possible e f f e c t s of epitomes from future tests of the Pollyanna hypothesis, and to separately study their a v a i l a b i l i t y . Two further caveats regarding the interpretation of the results must be noted. F i r s t , norm theory predicts that alt e r n a t i v e s to events are generated in response to those events (or, the stimulus r e c r u i t s i t s own context); however, the methodology used in the present study is unable to dist i n g u i s h between alternatives made available through retrospection or expectation. Likely, both processes determine the alternatives that are imagined. For example, the altern a t i v e s to suspenseful situations may be, to a large 43 degree, the consequence of expectations. Thus, the man who rushes to catch his t r a i n w i l l imagine a possible future in which he has missed his t r a i n . On the other hand, retrospection i s also c l e a r l y implicated in many instances of counterfactual thinking. Suppose, for example, I buy a l o t t e r y t i c k e t and the number on the tic k e t i s close to the winning number. My feeling that I "almost" won the prize w i l l be driven by a comparison between the two numbers after thay have been chosen rather than by prior expectations that the prize would be mine. Subsequent research must d i f f e r e n t i a t e between prospective and retrospective generation of alt e r n a t i v e s . A second caveat concerns the operationalization of hypotheses. Many comparisons were between alternatives that, in addition to the hypothesized differences, incorporated premise-outcome asymmetries. For example one test of hypothesis 2 involves a comparison between alternatives to the boy's response to Helen's desire to play baseball. However, one of these alternatives (the one chosen least frequently) "The boys welcome Helen on the team from the outset", also contains an a l t e r a t i o n to the premise, which is that g i r l s are not welcome on the boys baseball team. This interpretation i s possible for many of the hypotheses tested, and i t is possible that the ef f e c t s obtained are, in general, due to an unwillingness for people to make changes to premises. In summary, while some support was obtained for many of the hypotheses tested in this study, the interpretation of 44 these tests i s s u f f i c i e n t l y problematic that, at best, the present research provides a program for subsequent research. The next section describes some post-hoc comparisons of subject's responses to al t e r n a t i v e s . Exploratory Analysis A feature of the recognition technique for studying counterfactual a v a i l a b i l i t y i s the opportunity i t provides to make exploratory comparisons between a variety of alter n a t i v e s , with the goal of generating hypotheses for subsequent research. To f a c i l i t a t e t h i s , I rank ordered the 42 alternatives used in the present study according to their mean score across subjects. Following are comparisons and contrasts between the top ranked and bottom ranked 10 alter n a t i v e s (these alternatives w i l l be referred to by the code numbers given in table 4.) Examination of alternatives ranked according to their o v e r a l l l e v e l of recognition bolsters two key hypotheses of this study. The psychological r e a l i t y of processes segmenting r e a l i t y into three levels that vary in their a b i l i t y to evoke alternatives is given additional support: changes to events and objects at the superstructure and supporting d e t a i l levels are ranked very low. Five (12,14,16,19,20) of the 6 alternatives used to test levels hypotheses are in the bottom 10. This emphasizes the necessity for further research to examine the psychological r e a l i t y of these l e v e l s . The second 45 hypothesis supported i s the concept of suspense. Of the top 10 a l t e r n a t i v e s , at l e a s t 4 (1,2,4,7) are outcomes to s u s p e n s e f u l s i t u a t i o n s i n the t e x t . Below, I w i l l suggest that the high a v a i l a b i l i t y of s u s p e n s e - r e l a t e d a l t e r n a t i v e s i s a consequence of a p r e f e r e n c e f o r imagining dramatic events. Four of the 10 l e a s t r ecognized a l t e r n a t i v e s , (15,16,17,18) e n t a i l the s u b t r a c t i o n of o b j e c t s from the s c e n a r i o . Of the 42 a l t e r n a t i v e s , only these 4 share t h i s p r o p e r t y . T h i s leads to the s p e c u l a t i o n that while we f r e q u e n t l y imagine a l t e r n a t i v e s that i n c o r p o r a t e changes to the a t t r i b u t e s of experience, we r a r e l y imagine a l t e r n a t i v e s that lack these f e a t u r e s . T h i s idea i s analogous to other f i n d i n g s demonstrating that while people r e a d i l y a s s i m i l a t e new i n f o r m a t i o n , they cannot e a s i l y d i s c a r d or ignore d i s c r e d i t e d or u s e l e s s i n f o r m a t i o n . Research i n t o r e l a t i v e judgements i n d i c a t e s t hat adjustment to the a d d i t i o n of an object to a comparison set i s easy r e l a t i v e to adjustment to the o b j e c t ' s d e l e t i o n . For example, when making judgements of animal s i z e , i t i s e a s i e r to reduce these e s t i m a t e s i f an elephant i s added to the comparison set than to commensurately i n c r e a s e these estimates i f the elephant i s removed ( P a r d u c c i , 1956). A converging l i n e of evidence comes from the work of Ross and h i s c o l l e a g u e s (Ross & Anderson, 1982; Ross, Lepper & Hubbard, 1975) on the f a i l u r e of d e b r i e f i n g . These r e s e a r c h e r s found that the i n v a l i d a t i o n of data upon which b e l i e f s are founded has an u n j u s t i f i a b l y small e f f e c t on those b e l i e f s . Once 46 again, i t appears that while i t i s easy to add knowledge to the system, i t is d i f f i c u l t to take i t away. It i s possible that findings such as those of the present study, and of the work of Parducci, and Ross and his colleagues are d i f f e r e n t manifestations of common underlying processes which serve to i n h i b i t the exclusion of information from thought. If the scenarios were changed by replacing the events that occur with some of the highest ranked events, many of the events would become more dramatic. This i s es p e c i a l l y true of alternatives 1, 2, 3, 4 and 10, although a case could be made for alternative 5. None of the bottom 10 alternatives have similar dramatic p o s s i b i l i t i e s . It i s conceivable that the nature of the alternatives we spontaneously bring to mind i s in conformity with t r a d i t i o n a l ideas of the dramatic to which we are frequently exposed on t e l e v i s i o n , in books and at the cinema. Perhaps many alternatives imagined are changes to events of a sort that we have learned from these media. This is not an argument that we are simply running through a dramatic version of the kind of s c r i p t described by Abelson (1981) and that when deviations from t h i s s c r i p t are encountered we imagine that the s c r i p t ' s conclusion (or next episode) i s what "might have happened". We experience too many situations, and can imagine too diverse a range of "dramatic outcomes" to suppose that we have a precomputed s c r i p t for every circumstance. Rather, I suggest that we have learned a language and grammar of the dramatic, with which to 47 r e f l e c t upon our experience, transforming i t into a r i c h and exciting world of p o s s i b i l i t y . One element of t h i s grammar might be what was described above as suspense. In subsequent studies of counterfactual thinking, i t w i l l be of interest to determine what relationship, i f any, obtains between peoples' in t u i t i o n s about the dramatic and their patterns of al t e r n a t i v e generation. Conclusions This essay has succeeded in r a i s i n g more questions than i t has answered. It has given support to the idea that people spontaneously bring to mind counterfactual alternatives to their experiences, and that there may be rules or a grammar determining the sorts of alt e r n a t i v e s recruited. Some previously studied phenomena (for example, the focal peripheral asymmetry) have proven to be more complex than f i r s t imagined, while previously undiscovered phenomena (a reluctance to imagine the nonexistence of objects) have been proposed. Overall, while there remains much research to be done, progress is being made. 48 References Abelson, R. P. (1981). Psychological status of the s c r i p t concept. American Psychologist, 36(7), 715-729. Abelson, R. P. (1983). Whatever became of consistency theory? Personality and Social Psychology B u l l e t i n , 9(1), 37-54. Barsalou, L.W. (1985). Ideals, central tendency, and frequency of i n s t a n t i a t i o n . 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Ross, L., Lepper, M.R. & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverence i n s e l f p e r c e p t i o n and s o c i a l p e r c e p t i o n : Biased a t t r i b u t i o n a l processes i n the d e b r i e f i n g paradigm. J o u r n a l of P e r s o n a l i t y and S o c i a l Psychology, 32, 880 -892. Shots whiz between neighbours. (1986, May 17). Vancouver Sun, p. 2. T r u f f a u t , F r a n c o i s . (1967) Hi t c h c o c k . (H. S c o t t , T r a n s . ) . New York: Simon & Schuster. Tversky, A. & Kahneman, D. (1973). A v a i l a b i l i t y : A h e u r i s t i c f o r judging frequency and p r o b a b i l i t y . C o g n i t i v e  Psychology, 5, 207 - 232. 50 Table 1 Mean R e c o g n i t i o n L e v e l of A l t e r n a t i v e s to the B a s e b a l l Game Story S c e n a r i o order Pos* Set** A l t e r n a t i v e 1 2 1 1 The p i t c h e r throws average p i t c h .71 9( .85) ,700( .75) 2 The p i t c h e r throws a d i f f i c u l t p i t c h .852( .77) 1 .065( .81 ) 2 1 The b a s e b a l l game i s c a n c e l l e d .063( .35) . 000( .00) 2 Helen decides not to pl a y .51 9( .58) .290( .59) 3 1 Helen does not l e t other f i e l d e r do a l l the c a t c h i n g . .875( .79) .700( .75) 2 The other f i e l d e r l e t s Helen c a t c h . .51 9( .70) .677( .65) 4 1 The boys c h a l l e n g e Helen 1 . 3 1 3 < .74) 1 .267( .74) 2 The boys welcome Helen • 333( .62) . 7 1 0 ( .82) 5 1 Helen gets a double .781 ( .91 ) . 300 ( .65) 2 Helen gets a home run 1 .2221 .85) 1 .452( .77) 6 1 Helen i n s t r u c t e d to p l a y r i g h t f i e l d . 1 881 .54) . 1 33 ( .51 ) 2 A l l g i r l s decide to p l a y b a s e b a l l .3331 .55) .484( .68) 7 1 Helen s t r i k e s out 1 .375( .79) 1 .067( .78) 2 Helen gets no turn at bat • 593( .75) 1 .065( .89) Note: Maximum score = 2 . * P o s i t i o n of a l t e r n a t i v e i n q u e s t i o n n a i r e . ** A l t e r n a t i v e s e t . 51 Table 2 Mean R e c o g n i t i o n L e v e l of A l t e r n a t i v e s to the  Burglary Story Scenario order Pos* Set** A l t e r n a t i v e 1 2 1 1 T e r r y cannot open the window .633( .72) .625( .71) 2 The window i s unlocked .645( .80) .51 9( .70) 2 1 The p a i n t i n g s are o r i g i n a l s .833( .79) .844( .85) 2 There are no p a i n t i n g s . 1 94( .48) . 333( .48) 3 1 T e r r y knows how long the occupants w i l l be away .600( .72) . 7 1 9 ( .89) 2 The occupants come home 1 .677( .60) 1.444( .58) 4 1 There i s no f i g u r i n e - 1 33 ( .43) .281 ( .52) 2 The f i g u r i n e i s v a l u e l e s s 1 .000( .82) . 963( .76) 5 1 Te r r y decides i t i s too r i s k y to rob t h i s house .500( .63) .563( .76) 2 T e r r y does not s t e a l s e c u r i t i e s .903( .79) , 370 ( .63) 6 1 The fur i s a f u l l s i z e coat .767( .94) . 3 1 3 ( .64) 2 The s t o l e i s s y n t h e t i c f u r 1 .065( .93) 1 . 1 1 1 ( .85) 7 1 The man i n the a l l e y sees T e r r y 1 ,033( .76) 1.688( .54) 2 The man does not have a dog .223( .50) .259( .52) Note: Maximum score = 2. * P o s i t i o n of a l t e r n a t i v e i n q u e s t i o n n a i r e . ** A l t e r n a t i v e s e t . Table 3 Mean R e c o g n i t i o n L e v e l of A l t e r n a t i v e s to the D a y - t r i p Story Pos* Set** A l t e r n a t i v e Mean 1 1 John and Cindy r i d e on the t r a i n 1.290( .82) 2 The parents do not r i d e on the t r a i n • 970( .84) 2 1 Cindy agrees with John about being a clown .323( .67) 2 Cindy makes a scene when John mocks her .793( .79) 3 1 The weatherman p r e d i c t e d sunshine . 6 1 3 < .73) 2 It r a i n s while they are at the park ,862( .80) 4 1 The goose does not chase John's f a t h e r ,452( .67) 2 The goose b i t e s John's f a t h e r .879( .84) 5 1 They do not get splashed by the whale • 340( .65) 2 Cindy does not eat a l o t of candy • 362( .61 ) 6 1 The p o l a r bears were l i v e l y • 468( .72) 2 They c o u l d not see the bears . 241 ( .60) 7 1 John and Cindy get l o s t .726( .87) 2 The f a m i l y does not go to the park • 293( .59) Note: Maximum score = 2. * P o s i t i o n of a l t e r n a t i v e i n q u e s t i o n n a i r e . ** A l t e r n a t i v e s e t . 53 Table 4 Top 10 and Bottom 10 A l t e r n a t i v e s  Ranked by R e c o g n i t i o n L e v e l Code Rank Story* A l t e r n a t i v e Mean Top ten 1 1 R The occupants come home 1 .57 2 2 R The man i n the a l l e y sees T e r r y 1 .37 3 3 B Helen gets a home run 1 .34 4 4 B The boys c h a l l e n g e Helen 1 .29 5 5 B Helen s t r i k e s out 1 .23 6 6 T John and Cindy r i d e on the t r a i n 1 . 1 3 7 7 R The s t o l e i s s y n t h e t i c fur 1 .09 8 8 R The f i g u r i n e i s v a l u e l e s s 0 .98 9 9 T The parents do not r i d e on the t r a i n 0 .97 10 10 B The p i t c h e r throws a d i f f i c u l t 0 .96 p i t c h Bottom ten 11 33. 5 T Cindy does not eat a l o t of candy 0. 34 1 2 33. 5 T They do not get splashed by the whale 0. 34 1 3 35 T Cindy agrees with John about being a clown 0. 32 1 4 36 T The f a m i l y does not go to the park 0. 29 1 5 37 R There are no p a i n t i n g s 0. 26 1 6 38. 5 R The man does hot have a dog 0. 24 1 7 38. 5 T They co u l d not see the bears 0. 24 18 40 R There i s no f i g u r i n e 0. 21 1 9 41 B Helen i n s t r u c t e d to play r i g h t f i e l d 0. 1 6 20 42 B The b a s e b a l l game i s c a n c e l l e d 0. 03 Note: Maximum score = 2. *B = B a s e b a l l game, R = Robbery (Burglary) and T = D a y - t r i p . 54 Appendix 1 Scenarios and Alternatives Scenario 1 Helen Plays Baseball Every spring most of the teenagers in our town congregated for a picn i c at the Ames's farm. The highlight of the picnic was a baseball game and most years I would just stand around and cheer the boys' e f f o r t s while exchanging stories with the other g i r l s . One year, I decided that I wanted to play. I had persuaded my brother to help me sharpen my baseball s k i l l s in preparation for the p i c n i c . I joined the crowd of boys waiting to be chosen by one of the two captains, John Anderson and Rick Ames. There was murmuring amongst the younger boys and even the older ones didn't look pleased. The team captains, alternately choosing team members, deliberately l e f t me u n t i l l a s t . I ended up on Rick's team by default. Rick sternly told me that I would have to play in the l e f t f i e l d , along with one of the smaller boys, and that I would be the la s t teammate at bat. I assented to these conditions. While out in the f i e l d I had no opportunities to do anything other than survey the surrounding countryside. Whenever the b a l l was h i t in my di r e c t i o n the kid I shared duties with would rush in to catch i t , often coming near to running over me in his enthusiasm. During the sixth inning I f i n a l l y got my f i r s t turn at bat. Although I had played some Sof t b a l l at school during gym class and my brother had helped me improve my swing, I was unconfident. Our team had two out with one player on f i r s t base. I knew that i f I didn't come through I would be blamed more than the two unfortunates who had preceded me. John Anderson, pitching for the other team, patronizingly threw me an unusually slow, fat pitch. I stepped forward and struck i t as hard as I could in the dire c t i o n of l e f t f i e l d . The b a l l flew at a speed s t a r t l i n g me almost as much as i t did the other players. The ou t f i e l d e r s ran backwards in a vain attempt to catch i t . It was an easy t r i p l e . I ran l i k e a shot, and was safely perched on t h i r d base when the b a l l was returned to c i r c u l a t i o n . My team cheered excitedly, and they nearly forgot I was a g i r l . 55 Alternatives to baseball game scenario Pos* Set** Alternat ive 1 1 The pitcher throws an average pitch to Helen. 2 The pitcher throws a d i f f i c u l t p i t c h to Helen. 2 1 The baseball game i s cancelled. 2 Helen decides not to play baseball. 3 1 Helen does not l e t the other l e f t f i e l d e r do a l l the catching. 2 The other l e f t f i e l d e r l e t s Helen catch the baseballs that come her way. 4 1 The boys openly challenge Helen when she t r i e s to play. 2 The boys welcome Helen on the team from the outset. 5 1 Helen gets a double. 2 Helen gets a home run. 6 1 Helen is instructed to play in the right f i e l d . 2 A l l the g i r l s decide to play baseball t h i s year. 7 1 Helen strikes out. 2 Helen does not get a turn at bat. •Position of alternative in questionnaire. ** Alternative set. 56 Scenario 2 The Robbery Terry rang the doorbell and waited. Nobody answered. She checked her watch. She did not know how long the occupants would be away. Terry walked quickly around the house and then, s a t i s f i e d that i t was secure, climbed the f i r e escape to the second f l o o r . As she stood on the landing, a man and his dog s t r o l l e d by in the a l l e y below. Terry crouched down and waited u n t i l he was out of sight. She t r i e d the window. It was locked. She searched in her pockets for a knife which she inserted between the s i l l and the windowframe. The lock was very t i g h t , but f i n a l l y she loosened i t , l i f t e d up the window, and slipped into the apartment. She shone her penlight around the room. It was the kitchen, and contained nothing both portable and of value. She went into the l i v i n g room. The walls were decorated with abstract paintings. Terry held the penlight up to them. They were just reproductions. On the mantle above the f i r e p l a c e was a figurine, which she examined. S a t i s f i e d , Terry opened the black cloth bag she always carried when working and took out a sheet of newspaper, wrapped the figuri n e and placed i t in the bag. Then she went to the bedroom. The top drawer of the dresser had f i f t y d o l l a r s in i t . Terry pocketed i t . There was some jewelry scattered about but i t was of a cheap costume va r i e t y . She opened the closet. There was a fur stole wrapped in p l a s t i c hanging amongst the everyday clothing. Terry checked the fur by rubbing some of i t between her fingers and then r o l l e d up and packed the stole. The bedroom held nothing more of interest. She moved on to the study. On her way, the door b e l l rang. Terry stayed very s t i l l . The b e l l did not ring again. She walked to the window and peered out. There was nobody to be seen. She continued her work. The study was furnished with a desk, an oaken wardrobe, a small table for plants, a brass lamp, and bookshelves. A programmable calculator lay on the desk, serving as a paperweight for someone's homework, and this was dropped in the bag. Terry examined the desk drawers. In the bottom drawer she found a strongbox. She pulled i t out and placed i t on the f l o o r . It was too big to carry in her bag. Terry drew a leather folder f u l l of locksmith's tools from her jacket and t r i e d the lock. Within three minutes she opened i t to reveal a sheaf of s e c u r i t i e s held together by a bulldog c l i p , an empty jewelry box and some personal papers. Usually Terry did not l i k e fencing s e c u r i t i e s , but tonight the pickings were slim and so she dropped them in her bag. Terry closed the strongbox and returned i t to the drawer. She shouldered her bag, went to the window and, after assuring herself that i t was safe, descended. 57 Alternatives to robbery scenario Pos* Set** Alternative 1 1 Terry cannot open the window. 2 The window is unlocked. 2 1 The paintings are o r i g i n a l s . 2 There are no paintings on the l i v i n g room wall. 3 1 Terry knows how long the occupants of the apartment w i l l be away. 2 The occupants of the apartment come home when Terry i s there. 4 1 There is no figurine in the l i v i n g room. 2 The figurine is valueless. 5 1 Terry decides that i t i s too risky to rob this house. 2 Terry does not steal the s e c u r i t i e s . 6 1 The fur garment in the bedroom i s a f u l l size coat. 2 The stole i s made of synthetic fur. 7 1 The man in the a l l e y sees Terry. 2 The man in the a l l e y does not have a dog with him. *Position of alternative in questionnaire. ** Alternative set. 58 Scenario 3 A T r i p to Stanley Park Dear Janet, On Saturday, I v i s i t e d S tanley Park with my f a m i l y . The weather was gr e a t . The weatherman had p r e d i c t e d r a i n but Dad s a i d he thought the weather would be f i n e . The park was f u l l of t o u r i s t s who have come to town because of Expo. We saw a clown j u g g l i n g three apples while r i d i n g a u n i c y c l e . Mother thought he was very good and threw 50 cents i n h i s hat. My l i t t l e s i s t e r Cindy announced that she wanted to be a clown when she grew up, but I t o l d her that was s i l l y , and only a l i t t l e k i d would want to be a clown. When we walked through Lost Lagoon, a b i g goose t r i e d to nip at my f a t h e r s l e g . We laughed at Dad while he t r i e d to dodge the goose, who chased him a long way. Dad threatened to have the goose f o r supper, but i t d i d n ' t c a r e . A f t e r that we went t o the aquarium and watched the K i l l e r Whale show. We a l l got wet when the whale jumped up from the pool to get her f i s h . Mom and Dad wanted to r i d e on the m i n i a t u r e r a i l r o a d i n the c h i l d r e n ' s zoo but I thought i t was s i l l y . Cindy a l s o s a i d she d i d n ' t want to go and so I was stuck b a b y s i t t i n g her while Mom and Dad went on the t r a i n . We went to look at the p o l a r bears. Although we c o u l d see the bears they were a l l a s l e e p and watching them was b o r i n g , so we walked around the park u n t i l i t was time to meet our parents. As u s u a l , Cindy s t u f f e d h e r s e l f with c o t t o n candy and i c e cream and s t a r t e d to complain that she f e l t s i c k . I wanted to go to the beach but Cindy r e f u s e d to go any f u r t h e r , so we j u s t sat and waited f o r Mom and Dad. They enjoyed the t r a i n r i d e , but I think they're too o l d f o r that kind of t h i n g . See you l a t e r , John 59 Alternatives to day t r i p scenario Pos* Set** Alternative 1 1 The parents do not ride on the miniature t r a i n . 2 John and Cindy ride on the miniature t r a i n . 2 1 Cindy makes a scene when John mocks her desire to be a clown. 2 Cindy agrees with John that only a c h i l d would want to be a clown. 3 1 It rains while they are at the park. 2 The weatherman predicted that there would be sunshine. 4 1 The goose manages to bite John's father. 2 The goose does not chase John's father. 5 1 Cindy does not eat a l o t of candy. 2 They do not get splashed by the whale. 6 1 They could not see the bears in the zoo. 2 The polar bears are l i v e l y . 7 1 The family does not go to Stanley Park. 2 John and Cindy get lo s t after being separated from th e i r parents. *Position of alte r n a t i v e in questionnaire. ** Alternative set. 

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