Effects That Lead to Causes: Using an Event’S Outcomes to Infer Its Causes

Robyn LeBoeuf, University of Florida
Michael I. Norton, Harvard University
We demonstrate that people infer causes from effects, relying upon events’ eventual outcomes to infer the events’ prior causes. For example, people inferred that a given event (a computer crash) had a large cause (malicious virus) if that event had a large outcome (job loss), but a small cause (malfunctioning cooling fan) if the outcome was small. Outcome-cause matching (a) occurs even when outcomes are completely uninformative about potential causes, (b) arises along several dimensions, including magnitude and valence, and (c) is especially pronounced among those high in just-world beliefs and need for closure. Implications for theories of perceived causality, as well as practical implications (e.g., liability for product failure) are discussed.
[ to cite ]:
Robyn LeBoeuf and Michael I. Norton (2008) ,"Effects That Lead to Causes: Using an Event’S Outcomes to Infer Its Causes", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 35, eds. Angela Y. Lee and Dilip Soman, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 233-236.