Byrne, Ruth M.J., and Vittorio Girotto. “Cognitive Processes in Counterfactual Thinking.” In Handbook of Imagination and Mental Simulation, edited by Keith D. Markman, William MP Klein, and Julie A. Suhr, 151–60. New York, NY: Psychology Press, 2012.
[my comments in brackets]
Thinking hypothetically for alternative possibilities is fundamental to reasoning and decision making [and so it is to RPG and CYOA]. Most people are biased on this process and tend to focus on :
- exceptional events rather than routine ones
- actions rather than inactions
- controllable rather than uncontrollable actions and events
- facts explicitly exposed on the foreground
- few possibilities rather than many possibilities
- illusory inferences (they forget there are false possibilities)
- self-made temporarily true things (known/supposed to be false)
[RPG are enforcing most of these bias for entertainment and narrative satisfaction]
* * *
Also, the context and the way people acquire information [the role] influence the understanding of counterfactual conditionals and the creation of counterfactual alternatives.
For example, there is a story about a choice of envelope containing a problem to solve, then about the problem to solve. The problem is too difficult: people are asked to imagine conterfactual possibilities that could have brought a more positive outcome.
- The readers of the story focused more on the choice (60%). Eg. "If she choosed another envelope..." because they have few informations on the context.
- The actors of that story (and the observers of actors) focused more on the problem solving (92% for actors and 80% for observers) Eg. "If I had more time", "If I had a pen",... because they have more informations on the context (timing, material conditions,...).
[having a role allow a lot of contextual information to be processed to produce more rich counterfactual possibilities]