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

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.


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.


Robyn LeBoeuf, University of Florida
Michael I. Norton, Harvard University


NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 35 | 2008

Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More


When Consumer Brand Sabotage Harms Other Consumers Relationship with the Brand

Andrea Kähr, University of Bern
Bettina Nyffenegger, University of Bern
Harley Krohmer, University of Bern
Wayne Hoyer, University of Texas at Austin, USA

Read More


Beyond Subjectivity: Competing Governance Regimes and the Socio-Material Construction of Rational Consumer Action

Lena Pellandini-Simanyi, Università della Svizzera Italiana

Read More


Time-of-Day Effects on Consumers’ Social Media Engagement

Ozum Zor, Rutgers University, USA
Kihyun Hannah Kim, Rutgers University, USA
Ashwani Monga, Rutgers University, USA

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.