Social Re-evaluation Through Counterfactual Thinking

Why do we go through the trouble of constructing elaborate scenarios in our minds in the form of counterfactual thinking? In some cases, It can help us learn from our mistakes and make proper adjustments to thrive in the future. In other cases it may serve as a defensive mechanism, gaurding us against thoughts that reflect a truer (and often harsher) picture of reality. Could it be that counterfactual thought can provide us with a means of re-evauluating our social relationships? This concept may not be a far off-shoot from the others but I believe it is an interesting point to make as it highlights its relavance to social cognition. Take for example, the following thought: “What if I had said “x” to my friend?” This re-imagining of a verbal social interaction can serve to provide valuable feedback that could affect the future of a relationship. In the sense, when we have a counterfactual thought like this, we use it to re-evaluate the parameters,strength, and nature of our relationships. The infromation ascertained through these ficticious scenarios can help guide how we view and maintain our relationships. This would have been important in our evolutionary past as social interactions could more readily be linked to survival. If the species had those capabilities or not, I’m not sure as they require higher level, refined thought proccesing capability. Regradless, even in current times, these frequent evaluations are helpful and insightful tools in maintaining social order.

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