On becoming what we might have been: Counterfactual thinking and self-efficacy

Nurit Tal-Or, David S. Boninger, Faith Gleicher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Three experiments examined the hypothesis that, in the aftermath of a performance event, upward counterfactuals reinforce feelings of self-efficacy toward similar future events, whereas downward counterfactuals decrease feelings of self-efficacy. Using a scenario methodology, the first two experiments confirmed this hypothesis: upward counterfactual thinking enhanced feelings of self-efficacy relative to downward counterfactual thinking. In a third experiment, conducted in a more real-world context, upward counterfactuals again led to greater feelings of self-efficacy than downward counterfactuals. However, there were important limiting conditions: the effect of counterfactual thinking on self-efficacy was more or less pronounced depending on both situational and dispositional factors. Whereas the pattern of results provided little support for a self-protection explanation for these limiting conditions, the results were consistent with a depth of processing explanation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-26
JournalSelf and Identity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004


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