Basic Conditional Reasoning: How Children Mimic Counterfactual Reasoning


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.


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Correspondence to Brian Leahy.

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Leahy, B., Rafetseder, E. & Perner, J. Basic Conditional Reasoning: How Children Mimic Counterfactual Reasoning. Stud Logica 102, 793–810 (2014).

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  • Counterfactual Reasoning
  • Basic Conditional Reasoning
  • Counterfactuals
  • Possible worlds semantics
  • Generic reasoning