Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary

The goals of counterfactual possibilities

Paolo Legrenzia1

a1 School of Advanced Studies, Dorsoduro 3488u rio novo, 30123 Venice, Italy. legrenzi@iuav.it

Abstract

Why do humans imagine alternatives to reality? The experiments conducted by Byrne explain the mental mechanisms we use when we do just this – that is, imagine one, or more, alternative reality. But why do we do this? The general reason is to give ourselves an explanation of the world, to tell stories; at times to console ourselves, and at times to despair. A good story is not only based on a description of what happened, but also hints at, or explains, what might have happened. Depending on our aim, we construct different kinds of counterfactuals. In all cases, however, we are faced with constraints. These constraints are specific to a given domain of beliefs and use of counterfactuals.

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    Précis of The Rational Imagination: How People Create Alternatives to Reality Ruth M. J. Byrne School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland rmbyrne@tcd.ie http://www.tcd.ie/Psychology/Ruth_Byrne/
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