Counterfactual Thinking and Its Consequences: implications for advertising research

Document Type



counterfactual; attribution; consumer; affect; cognition

Identifier Data



Korean Advertising Society

Publication Source

Journal of Advertising and Promotion Research, 3(1), 5-24


Counterfactual thinking has many consequences which can be roughly characterized using the standard affect-cognition-behavior framework. In this paper, I first discuss two underlying mechanisms of counter factual thinking: the contrast effect mechanism and the causal inference mechanism. These two mechanisms account for nearly all counter factual consequences. Next, based on this dual mechanism theory,I review previous studies to provide evidence supporting how counterfactual thinking influences affect and cognition via the dual mechanism.Contrast effects and causal inferences may sometimes operate independently,but work jointly in other instances. Third, I examine why people engage in counterfactual thinking and its behavioral consequences.Functionalists have successfully demonstrated that in the long-term,counterfactual thoughts are more beneficial than harmful (Roese,1997). Finally, I draw a theoretical connection between these findings and implications for advertising research.