Studia Logica

, Volume 102, Issue 4, pp 793–810 | Cite as

Basic Conditional Reasoning: How Children Mimic Counterfactual Reasoning

  • Brian Leahy
  • Eva Rafetseder
  • Josef Perner
Open Access


Children approach counterfactual questions about stories with a reasoning strategy that falls short of adults’ Counterfactual Reasoning (CFR). It was dubbed “Basic Conditional Reasoning” (BCR) in Rafetseder et al. (Child Dev 81(1):376–389, 2010). In this paper we provide a characterisation of the differences between BCR and CFR using a distinction between permanent and nonpermanent features of stories and Lewis/Stalnaker counterfactual logic. The critical difference pertains to how consistency between a story and a conditional antecedent incompatible with a nonpermanent feature of the story is achieved. Basic conditional reasoners simply drop all nonpermanent features of the story. Counterfactual reasoners preserve as much of the story as possible while accommodating the antecedent.


Counterfactual Reasoning Basic Conditional Reasoning Counterfactuals Possible worlds semantics Generic reasoning 


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© The Author(s) 2013

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversität KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Salzburg, University of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and Centre for Neurocognitive ResearchUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria

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