Counterfactual Reasoning and Pretend Play
Collaborators: Caren Walker, Sophie Bridgers, Deena Skolnick Weisberg, Alison Gopnik

This line of work explores the relationship between children’s understanding of real-world causal structure and their pretend play. In particular, this research looks at whether real-world causal relationships carry over into pretend scenarios, and at how children act in pretend situations to bring about imaginary causal outcomes. It also empirically examines the relationship between childhood pretense and causal counterfactual reasoning, exploring the hypothesis that children’s pretense may in fact be a form of counterfactual causal reasoning, allowing them to explore causal “what if” scenarios in alternative imaginary worlds.