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Project title: Individual Differences in the Generation of Functional and Dysfunctional Counterfactual Thoughts

Primary supervisor: Dr Fuschia Sirois

Project description: Counterfactual thoughts are mental simulations of alternative outcomes that are commonly generated when events or situations turn out differently than expected. Upward counterfactual thoughts (thoughts about how a negative situation could have been better) can often have a behaviour regulating function by highlighting ways to correct future behaviour. Downward counterfactual thoughts (thoughts about how the outcome could have been worse) contrast the negative outcome with a much worse outcome and in this way provide a sense of relief which can help reduce negative mood about an outcome. Upward and downward counterfactuals can be functional or dysfunctional depending on the context.
Research on the role of individual differences in counterfactual thinking, and specifically how and when counterfactuals are used in a functional and adaptive manner, is limited. This PhD project will examine how positive and negative individual differences influence the generation of functional and dysfunctional counterfactuals, and the nature of the processes and outcomes involved.
Suggested readings:
Epstude, K., & Roese, N. J. (2008). The functional theory of counterfactual thinking. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12(2), 168.
Sirois, F. M., Monforton, J., & Simpson, M. (2010). “If only I had done better”: Perfectionism and the functionality of counterfactual thinking. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1675-1692.


Formal enquiries should be addressed to: Dr Fuschia Sirois (f.sirois@sheffield.ac.uk)

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