People often consider counterfactual events that did not happen, and some counterfactuals seem so close to actual events that they are described as aspects of reality. In five pre-registered experiments (N = 1195), we show there are two kinds of counterfactual closeness. These two kinds of closeness are inferred from different causes, elicit different emotions, and are described using different linguistic expressions. Distance-based closeness is inferred from the distance between the counterfactual and reality, is expressed by saying the counterfactual almost happened, and is more strongly linked with disappointment than surprise. Meanwhile, odds-based closeness is inferred from prior odds, is expressed by saying the counterfactual easily could have happened, and is more strongly linked with surprise. Even without information about the distance between outcomes and prior odds, people more strongly link expressions of whether something almost happened with disappointment and link expressions of whether something easily could have happened with surprise. In sum, counterfactual closeness is not perceived on a single dimension. Instead, there are at least two forms of closeness.
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