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Title: Pretence and counterfactual reasoning : what is the nature of the relationship
Author: Francis, Gill Althia
ISNI:       0000 0004 8507 5799
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2020
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This study aims to explore the theoretical assertion that pretence and counterfactual reasoning involve the same cognitive mechanisms. However, there is little empirical evidence concerning the nature of the association between pretence and counterfactual reasoning (CFR), and the associations of these constructs with other cognitive abilities. This study investigated shared cognitive skills proposed to link pretence to counterfactual reasoning and explored whether an underlying cognitive capacity might explain the associations shared between the two. This study uses a large-scale observational design to test the relationship between pretence and counterfactual reasoning at a structural level. 189 typically developing children (Mage = 58 mths, SD = 4) completed measures of pretend play, counterfactual reasoning, executive functions (EFs) and receptive language. Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) was used to assess whether pretence and CFR measures each loaded on to latent factors. Hierarchical multiple repression analyses were used to assess predictors of scores on these factors. Structural equation modelling (SEM) was used to explore whether a second order ability explained common variance in CFR and Pretence latent variables. CFA results confirmed the latent pretence and CFR constructs emerged as predicted. Further these factors were significantly correlated with each other. The hierarchical multiple regression analyses identified inhibition as commonly accounting for unique variance in both latent constructs. SEM supported that a second-order factor, predicted by inhibition, accounted for the unique variance shared between pretence and counterfactual reasoning. The findings are discussed with reference to the theoretical supposition that pretence and counterfactual reasoning share cognitive mechanisms. Based on the results of this first study to model empirically a unifying theory of pretence and counterfactual reasoning, a tentative new theoretical model is proposed which is based on the idea of a general mental state model of an imaginary representational capacity influenced by inhibitory control.
Supervisor: Gibson, Jenny Louise Sponsor: Cambridge Lego Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Pretence ; Counterfactual Reasoning ; Imagination ; Hypothetical Thinking ; Cognitive Models