skip to content

Click here to search our resources

PEDAL Hub: Resource Library

Buchsbaum, D. et al. (2012) The power of possibility: causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, and pretend play (Journal Article)

Abstract:

We argue for a theoretical link between the development of an extended period of immaturity in human evolution and the emergence of powerful and wide-ranging causal learning mechanisms, specifically the use of causal models and Bayesian learning. We suggest that exploratory childhood learning, childhood play in particular, and causal cognition are closely connected. We report an empirical study demonstrating one such connection—a link between pretend play and counterfactual causal reasoning. Preschool children given new information about a causal system made very similar inferences both when they considered counterfactuals about the system and when they engaged in pretend play about it. Counterfactual cognition and causally coherent pretence were also significantly correlated even when age, general cognitive development and executive function were controlled for. These findings link a distinctive human form of childhood play and an equally distinctive human form of causal inference. We speculate that, during human evolution, computations that were initially reserved for solving particularly important ecological problems came to be used much more widely and extensively during the long period of protected immaturity.

Date:
January 2012
Volume:
367
Page/s:
2202-2212
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Gopnik, A. (1998) Wanting to Get It Right: Commentary on Lillard and Joseph (Journal Article)

Abstract:
Author/s:
Date:
January 1998
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
69
Page/s:
994-995
Keyword/s:
Synonyms:
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:
Tags:

Gopnik, A. et al. (0/00) Considering Counterfactuals: The Relationship between Causal Learning and Pretend Play (Journal Article)

Abstract:
Date:
November 2012
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
6
Page/s:
15-28
Keyword/s:
Synonyms:
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Walker, C. et al. (2013) Pretense and possibility—A theoretical proposal about the effects of pretend play on development: Comment on Lillard et al. (2013). (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The review by Lillard et al. (2013) highlighted the need for additional research to better clarify the nature of the relationship between pretend play and development. However, the authors did not provide a proposal for how to structure the direction of this future work. Here, we provide a possible framework for generating additional research. This theoretical proposal is based on recent computational approaches to cognition, in which counterfactual reasoning plays a central role in causal learning. We propose that pretend play initially emerges as a product of the cognitive mechanisms underlying human learning and then feeds back to become critical for enhancing the optimal functioning of these same processes. More specifically, we argue that pretending is in fact 1 of several forms of counterfactual reasoning, which is essential to causal cognition—and that the act of engaging in pretend scenarios may provide early opportunities to practice the skills that were initially responsible for its appearance. Here, we provide a brief overview of this theoretical framework, consider how these ideas may be integrated with the previous work covered in Lillard et al.'s (2013) review, and suggest some empirically testable questions to direct future directions.

Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
139
Page/s:
40-44
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
  • Problem-solving
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Walker, C. et al. (2013) Pretense and possibility—A theoretical proposal about the effects of pretend play on development: Comment on Lillard et al. (2013) (Journal Article)

Abstract:

The review by Lillard et al. (2013) highlighted the need for additional research to better clarify the nature of the relationship between pretend play and development. However, the authors did not provide a proposal for how to structure the direction of this future work. Here, we provide a possible framework for generating additional research. This theoretical proposal is based on recent computational approaches to cognition, in which counterfactual reasoning plays a central role in causal learning. We propose that pretend play initially emerges as a product of the cognitive mechanisms underlying human learning and then feeds back to become critical for enhancing the optimal functioning of these same processes. More specifically, we argue that pretending is in fact 1 of several forms of counterfactual reasoning, which is essential to causal cognition—and that the act of engaging in pretend scenarios may provide early opportunities to practice the skills that were initially responsible for its appearance. Here, we provide a brief overview of this theoretical framework, consider how these ideas may be integrated with the previous work covered in Lillard et al.'s (2013) review, and suggest some empirically testable questions to direct future directions.

Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
139
Page/s:
40-44
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Pretend play
  • Problem-solving
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Weisberg, D. et al. (2013) Pretense, Counterfactuals, and Bayesian Causal Models: Why What Is Not Real Really Matters (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Young children spend a large portion of their time pretending about non-real situations. Why? We answer this question by using the framework of Bayesian causal models to argue that pretending and counterfactual reasoning engage the same component cognitive abilities: disengaging with current reality, making inferences about an alternative representation of reality, and keeping this representation separate from reality. In turn, according to causal models accounts, counterfactual reasoning is a crucial tool that children need to plan for the future and learn about the world. Both planning with causal models and learning about them require the ability to create false premises and generate conclusions from these premises. We argue that pretending allows children to practice these important cognitive skills. We also consider the prevalence of unrealistic scenarios in children's play and explain how they can be useful in learning, despite appearances to the contrary.

Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
37
Page/s:
1368-1381
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Learning
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
  • Social cognition
  • Social-emotional
  • Symbolic play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Weisberg, D. et al. (2016) Which Counterfactuals Matter? A Response to Beck (Journal Article)

Abstract:
Date:
January 2016
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
40
Page/s:
257-259
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline: