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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences

Advisor 1

Elizabeth Veinott

Advisor 2

Sonia Goltz

Committee Member 1

Shane Mueller

Committee Member 2

Briana Bettin

Committee Member 3

Adrienne Minerick


Often, we quickly form and maintain theories (frames) about ambiguous situations, but there are circumstances where we need to change these frames. The Data-Frame Model of Sensemaking suggests that the first step to changing one’s frame is to question it. But how does one question their frame? Counterfactual thinking is one possible strategy to encourage questioning a frame, through prompting consideration of mutability within the situation and generating alternative frames. Through seven studies, this research explores people’s ability to question their frames naturally, tests a conceptual model of the role of counterfactual factors like mutability, ambiguity, and availability of alternatives in the questioning process, experimentally tests three mutability-based strategies to promote questioning one’s frame, and finally applies one of these strategies to the academic hiring context. This dissertation also reviews the literature on sensemaking, counterfactual thinking, motivated reasoning, and decision-making heuristics, and how these theories are related to the process or need for questioning a frame.