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Counterfactual Thinking as a Scientific Method

Wenzlhuemer, Roland

German Title: Kontrafaktisches Denken als wissenschaftliche Methode

In: Wenzlhuemer, Roland (Hrsg.): Counterfactual Thinking as a Scientific Method. Special Issue of Historical Social Research. Center for Historical Social Research, Köln 2009, pp. 27-54

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Despite their alleged uselessness, we frequently encounter instances of counterfactual thinking in everyday-life situations. During the last two decades, psychologists have examined this phenomenon and have been able to show that counterfactual thoughts about past (and, therefore, unchangeable) events can be useful for the thinker. This article retraces the effects of counterfactual thinking in everyday life and seeks to translate them into an academic context. Can counterfactuals produce similar analytical benefits in the sciences? And if so, what exactly are those benefits? After briefly examining the psychological aspects of counterfactual thinking, the article discusses its potential uses from a general scientific perspective before using counterfactual history as a concrete example. Eventually and for good measure, attention is drawn to the clear and present dangers associated with counterfactual thinking in an academic context.

Item Type: Book Section
Editors: Wenzlhuemer, Roland
Title of Book: Counterfactual Thinking as a Scientific Method. Special Issue of Historical Social Research
Publisher: Center for Historical Social Research
Place of Publication: Köln
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2015 13:34
Date: 2009
Page Range: pp. 27-54
Faculties / Institutes: Philosophische Fakultät > Historisches Seminar
Subjects: 900 Geography and history
Controlled Keywords: Kontingenz, Kontrafaktizität
Uncontrolled Keywords: counterfactual thinking, counterfactual history, contrast effect, hindsight bias, self-protective bias
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