Clare Walsh

Clare Walsh

Lecturer in Psychology

School of Psychology (Faculty of Health and Human Sciences)


Academic Positions

2004 - Present Lecturer, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, U.K.

2003-2004 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Brown University, Providence, RI,

2002-2003 Postdoctoral Fellow, Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ

2001-2002 Lecturer, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland


1998-2001 Ph.D. in Cognitive Science, University of Dublin, Ireland

1998-1999 Postgraduate Diploma in Statistics, University of Dublin, Ireland

1994-1998 B.A. in Psychology, University of Dublin, Ireland

1989-1992 Diploma in Advanced Computer Programming, University of Dublin, Ireland

Research interests

My interest is in the cognitive science of human thinking, reasoning and imagination. My objective is to understand how people mentally construct new possibilities in various domains of thinking. My current work focuses on the areas of belief revision, causal reasoning and counterfactual thinking.
Click here for an example of one of my studies. It takes 2 minutes to complete: 

Causation and Prevention

I am carrying out studies with Steven Sloman to examine how people understand causation and prevention. Our studies aim to distinguish theoretical accounts based on counterfactuals and those based on mechanisms or causal processes. We have shown that people are more likely to make attributions of causation when there is a mechanism but attributions of prevention when the mechanism is or could be interrupted.

Counterfactual Thinking

My aim is to examine the mental representations and cognitive processes underlying counterfactual thinking, that is, the imagination of alternatives to reality. Together with Ruth Byrne, I have examined factors that influence the ease with which people mentally undo events. We have shown that this depends on the reasons that are given and on the way that the context is framed. We have developed a computational model to simulate our theory of the temporal order effect. Steven Sloman and I are currently studying how different linguistic cues, such as mood or reference to intervention, can lead people to simulate different counterfactual possibilities. We are also carrying out a project to examine the role of counterfactual simulation in judgments of cause and prevention.

Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

I am interested in understanding how people’s mental representation of a problem can influence the process of reasoning. One current project that I am carrying out with Uri Hasson and Phil Johnson-Laird shows examines the role of alternative causes in judgments of causal conditionals. Another current project that I am working on with Uri Hasson shows that people judge category-based inductions to be stronger when they must keep multiple possibilities in mind. My goal is to understand how the way people flesh out, integrate and revise their mental representations can influence the inferences that they draw.

Reasoning with Inconsistency and Belief Revision

I am interested in understanding how people revise their beliefs when they encounter inconsistent information. My current projects are designed to examine a number of questions. First, how do people revise their beliefs and what factors influence this process? Second, how well do formal theories (e.g., those based on logical or Bayesian models) capture the way that people revise their beliefs? The work that I am carrying out with Ruth Byrne shows that the process of belief revision is influenced by people’s experience with the topic and by the way that the information is framed. My studies with Phil Johnson-Laird show that, contrary to formal theories, people do not always make minimal changes to their beliefs. This process can be modified when people generate explanations for their revisions. More recently, together with Steven Sloman, I have shown that people make unnecessary changes to their causal judgments after resolving a contradiction. My goal is to develop a model of human belief revision based on empirical findings of how people reason with inconsistency.

Key publications are highlighted

Briazu RA, Walsh CR, Deeprose C & Ganis G 2017 'Undoing the past in order to lie in the present: Counterfactual thinking and deceptive communication' Cognition 161, 66-73 , DOI PEARL
Mercier H, Rolison JJ, Stragà M, Ferrante D, Walsh CR & Girotto V 2016 'Questioning the preparatory function of counterfactual thinking' Memory & Cognition 45, (2) 261-269 , DOI PEARL
Howarth S, Handley SJ & Walsh C 2015 'The logic-bias effect: The role of effortful processing in the resolution of belief–logic conflict' Memory & Cognition 44, (2) 330-349 , DOI PEARL
Bacon AM, Walsh CR & Martin L 2013 'Fantasy proneness and counterfactual thinking' PERSONALITY AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES 54, (4) 469-473 Author Site , DOI PEARL
Ferrante D, Girotto V, Straga M & Walsh CR 2013 'Improving the Past and the Future: A Temporal Asymmetry in Hypothetical Thinking' Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 142, (1) 23-27 , DOI
Rolison J, Evans JSB, Dennis I & Walsh CR 2012 'Dual-processes in Learning and Judgment: Evidence from the multiple cue probability learning paradigm' Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes , DOI
Rolison JJ, Evans JSBT, Walsh CR & Dennis I 2011 'The role of working memory capacity in multiple-cue probability learning' Q J Exp Psychol (Hove) 64, (8) 1494-1514 Author Site , DOI
Walsh CR & Sloman SA 2011 'The Meaning of Cause and Prevent: The Role of Causal Mechanism' MIND & LANGUAGE 26, (1) 21-52 Author Site , DOI
Walsh CR & Johnson-Laird PN 2009 'Changing your mind' MEMORY & COGNITION 37, (5) 624-631 Author Site , DOI
Walsh CR & Byrne RMJ 2007 'How people think 'If only...' about reasons for actions' Thinking & Reasoning 13, (4) 461-483
Walsh 2005 'Between-subject or within-subject measures of regret: Dilemma and solution' Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 41 (5), 559-566 , DOI
Walsh CR & Johnson-Laird PN 2004 'Co-reference and reasoning' Memory & Cognition 32, (1) 96-106
Walsh CR & Byrne RMJ 2004 'Counterfactual thinking: The temporal order effect' Memory & Cognition 32, (3) 369-378
Walsh CR & Sloman SA 2011 'Counterfactual and Generative Accounts of Causal Attribution' in McKay Illari P; Russo F; Williamson J Causality in the Sciences Oxford University Press
Walsh C & Sloman SA 2008 'Updating beliefs with causal models: violations of screening off' in Gluck MA; Anderson JR; Kosslyn SM Memory and Mind Taylor & Francis 345-357
Byrne RMJ & Walsh CR 2005 'Resolving Contradictions' in Girotto V; Johnson-Laird PN The shape of reason: essays in honour of Paolo Legrenzi. Hove: Psychology Press.
Walsh CR & Byrne RMJ 2005 'The mental representation of what might have been' in Mandel IDR; Hilton DJ; Catellani P The psychology of counterfactual thinking. In P. Robinson (Series Ed.), Routledge Research International Series in Social Psychology. London : Routledge.
Conference Papers
Walsh CR & Sloman SA 2005 'The meaning of cause and prevent: The role of causal mechanism' Bara BG; Barsalou L; Bucciarelli M Proceedings of the 27th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 2331-2336
Hasson U, Walsh CR & Johnson-Laird PN 2005 'What underlies the assessment of conditionals?' Bara BG; Barsalou L; Bucciarelli M Proceedings of the 27th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 911-916
Walsh CR & Sloman SA 2004 'Revising causal beliefs' Forbus K; Gentner D; Regier T Proceedings of the 26th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 1423-1427
Byrne RMJ & Walsh CR 2002 'Contradictions and Counterfactuals: Generating Belief Revisions in Conditional Inference' Gray W; Schunn C Proceedings of the 24th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 160-165
Walsh CR & Byrne RMJ 2001 'A Computational Model of Counterfactual Thinking: The Temporal Order Effect' Moore JD; Stenning K Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 1078-1083
Walsh CR & Byrne RMJ 2001 'Counterfactual Thinking: The Temporal Order Effect' O'Donoghue D Proceedings of the Twelfth Irish Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science Society. NUI, Maynooth 233-242
Walsh CR & Johnson-Laird PN 2001 'The Semantic Modulation of Deductive Premises' Moore IJD; Stenning K Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 1084-1088