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Pretence and Counterfactual Reasoning: What is the nature of the relationship?

Wednesday 18 November 2020, 1.00PM to 2.00pm

Speaker(s): Dr Gill Francis, Psychology in Education Research Centre

It has been proposed that one role of pretend play in development is to facilitate counterfactual-reasoning - the capacity to imagine how past experiences could have turned out differently. This assertion is based on the observation that pretence and counterfactual reasoning both activate similar cognitive mechanisms - disengaging with current reality, making inferences about an alternative representation of reality, and keeping this inference representation separate from reality. However, there is little empirical evidence explaining the nature of the association between pretence and counterfactual-reasoning or the associations of these constructs with other cognitive abilities since the theory was explicated by Weisberg & Gopnik (2013).

To evaluate the claim that early years counterfactual-reasoning and pretence share underlying cognitive dimensions an observational study (n = 189 typically developing children) was designed to test this relationship at a structural level. Structural equation modelling analysis supported that a second-order factor, predicted by inhibition, accounted for the unique variance shared between pretence and counterfactual-reasoning.  This study is pioneering as it is the first to apply latent variable modelling to developmental counterfactual-reasoning research and present empirical evidence for a unified theory of imaginative processes. The evidence supporting the argument that pretence and counterfactual reasoning are similar cognitive skills has implications for research seeking to explore the role of pretend play in children’s development.

 Zoom link to be confirmed

Location: via Zoom