Architecture of Counterfactual Thought in the Prefrontal Cortex

Aron K. Barbey, Frank Krueger, Jordan Grafman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter develops an integrative cognitive neuroscience framework for understanding counterfactual reasoning on the basis of structured event complexes (SECs) in the human prefrontal cortex (PFC). The reviewed evidence in support of the SEC framework confirms the importance and uniqueness of the human PFC for representing knowledge in the form of cognitive events and action sequences. It is argued that SECs are the key to understanding the human ability to represent mental models of events, which guide the selection of goal-directed action sequences and the online updating of behavior based on past outcomes or anticipated future events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPredictions in the Brain
Subtitle of host publicationUsing Our Past to Generate a Future
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199897230
ISBN (Print)9780195395518
StatePublished - Sep 22 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Counterfactual reasoning
  • Integrative cognitive neuroscience framework
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Structure event complexes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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