Three studies assessed the influence of differential perspective taking on counterfactual thinking. In Study 1 male and female subjects were asked to play the role of, respectively, perpetrator and victim in a rape case, and to give their own account of the event. Analysis of spontaneous counterfactuals showed a main tendency to focus on actions more than inactions and on controllable more than uncontrollable elements. However, this tendency was moderated by the subject's role and the counterfactual target. While victims focused on perpetrators' controllable actions more than on their own, perpetrators did not focus on victims' controllable actions more than on their own; they focused on victims' controllable inactions instead. In Study 2, where males and females were asked to reverse their roles, and where prompted as well as spontaneous counterfactuals were analysed, the same results were found. Further evidence for generality of these results was found in Study 3, where an assault case instead of a rape case was taken into account. These findings support the view that counterfactual mutability may be influenced by role-based motivations, as well as by role-based expectations regarding how active a party is supposed to have been in an event. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
- counterfactual reasoning