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Beck, S. (2016) Counterfactuals Matter: A Reply to Weisberg & Gopnik (Journal Article)

Abstract:
Author/s:
Date:
January 2016
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
40
Page/s:
260-261
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Bretherton, I. (1989) Pretense: The form and function of make-believe play (Journal Article)

Abstract:

This paper proposes that make-believe play expresses the young child's emerging capacity to engage in counterfactual or would-be thinking. Three important developments enable preschoolers to create joint make-believe worlds with others: the ability to (1) manage multiple roles as playwrights and actors, (2) invent novel plots, and (3) deliberately blur the boundary between reality and pretense. Given that joint make-believe play turns out to be such a complex representational activity, the question about its function raises itself more insistently than ever. Of the many social and cognitive functions that have been proposed, emotional mastery is the only one that could not equally be exercised in nonpretend contexts. There is evidence, however, that in nonclinical settings the well-adjusted, secure children are most able to benefit from the opportunity for emotional mastery offered by sociodramatic play, whereas less-well-adjusted, insecure children are not. This has important implications for the design of play interventions.

Author/s:
Date:
January 1989
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
9
Page/s:
383-401
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Buchsbaum, D. (2013) Learning Causal Structure in Social, Statistical and Imagined Contexts (Thesis)

Abstract:

A major challenge children face is uncovering the causal structure of the world around them. Previous research on children’s causal inference has demonstrated their ability to learn about causal relationships in the physical environment using probabilistic evidence. However, children must also learn about causal relationships in the social environment, including discovering the causes of other people’s behavior, and understanding the causal relationships between others’ goal-directed actions and the outcomes of those actions. In addition, many of the causal relationships children experience do not occur in the physical world at all, but instead occur in richly causal imaginary worlds.

In this dissertation, we argue that social reasoning and causal reasoning are deeply linked, both in the real world and in children’s minds. Children use both types of information together and in fact reason about both physical and social causation in fundamentally similar ways. We suggest that children jointly construct and update causal theories about their social and physical environment and that this process is best captured by probabilistic models of cognition. We also argue that causal pretense may serve as a form of counterfactual causal reasoning, allowing children to explore causal “what if” scenarios in alternative imaginary worlds, and suggest 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.

We investigate the complex and varied ways in which children learn causal relationships through three primary lines of research, each of which extends probabilistic models beyond reasoning about purely physical causes, while also characterizing the distinctive aspects of causal pretense and social causal reasoning. In the first set of studies, we examine how causal learning can influence the understanding and segmentation of action, and how observed statistical structure in human action can affect causal inferences. We present a Bayesian analysis of how statistical and causal cues to segmentation should optimally be combined, as well as four experiments investigating human action segmentation and causal inference.
We find that both adults and our model are sensitive to statistical regularities and causal structure in continuous action, and are able to combine these sources of information in order to correctly infer both causal relationships and segmentation boundaries.

The second line of work examines how the social context influences children’s causal learning, focusing particularly on children’s imitation of causal actions. We define a Bayesian model that predicts children will decide whether to imitate part or all of an action sequence based on both the pattern of statistical evidence and the demonstrator’s pedagogical stance.
We conducted an experiment in which preschool children watched an experimenter repeatedly perform sequences of varying actions followed by an outcome. Children’s imitation of sequences that produced the outcome increased, in some cases resulting in production of shorter sequences of actions that the children had never seen performed in isolation. A second experiment established that children interpret the same statistical evidence differently when it comes from a knowledgeable teacher versus a naıve demonstrator, suggesting that children attend to both statistical and pedagogical evidence in deciding which actions to imitate, rather than obligately imitating successful action sequences.

The final line of work explores the relationship between children’s understanding of real-world causal structure and their pretend play. We report a study demonstrating 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 pretense 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 particularly important ecological problems came to be used much more widely and extensively during the long period of protected immaturity.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2013
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
Page/s:
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Pretend play
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Byrne, R. (2016) Counterfactual Thought (Journal Article)

Abstract:

Please click on the link provided below to read the abstract.

Author/s:
Date:
January 2016
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
67
Page/s:
135-157
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
  • Literature review
  • Pretend play
  • Social cognition
  • Social-emotional
Relevant age group/s:
Research discipline:

Riggs, K. et al. (2000) Counterfactual thinking in pre-school children: mental state and causal inferences (Book Section)

Abstract:

This fresh and dynamic book offers a thorough investigation into the development of the cognitive processes that underpin judgements about mental states (often termed 'theory of mind') and addresses specific issues that have not been adequately dealt with in the past, and which are now being raised by some of the most prominent researchers in the field.

Date:
January 2000
Publisher or Journal:
Volume:
Page/s:
87-99
Synonyms:
  • Developmental outcomes
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: