Past research has shown that counterfactual thinking (‘if only . . . ’) is related to judgements of responsibility for negative events. It has also shown that behaviours deviating from the target’s own behavioural standard (intrapersonal norm) are likely to trigger counterfactuals—the so-called exceptional-routine effect. In the present research, we demonstrate that behaviours deviating from a social category’s behavioural standard (social norm) are also likely to trigger counterfactuals—what may be called the nonconformity effect. Two studies investigated counterfactual thinking regarding a rape case, classifying counterfactuals according to their conformity versus nonconformity to relevant social norms, and their focus on actions versus inactions. In Study 1, participants with higher endorsement of the rape victim stereotype generated more counterfactuals on the victim’s nonconforming inactions than did participants with lower stereotype endorsement. The presence of a nonconformity effect was confirmed in Study 2, where participants rated their agreement with externally generated counterfactuals. Moreover, in Study 2, counterfactuals focused on the victim’s non-conforming inactions predicted responsibility attribution to the victim through the mediating role of perceived avoidability of the event. Copyright # 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.