- "If only...": when counterfactual thoughts can reduce illusions of personal authorship
- Consciousness and Cognition
- Volume | Issue number
- 21 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Illusions of personal authorship can arise when causation for an event is ambiguous, but people mentally represent an anticipated outcome and then observe a corresponding match in reality. When people do not maintain such high-level outcome representations and focus instead on low-level behavioral representations of concrete actions, illusions of personal authorship can be reduced. One condition that yields specific action plans and thereby moves focus from high-level outcomes to low-level actions is the generation of counterfactual thoughts. Hence, in the present research we tested whether thinking counterfactually can reduce illusory authorship. In line with predictions, generating behavior-regulating counterfactuals reduced susceptibility to the illusion (Study 1). Importantly, this only occurred when people expected to re-encounter the situation to which the counterfactuals applied (Study 2). These findings extend existing research on the boundary conditions of illusory experiences of personal authorship and might hint at a relationship between the illusion and behavior regulation.
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