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


I6. How Does Runner’s World Shape a Runner’s World? Understanding Representations of the “Ideal” Female Body in Fitness Advertising

Carly Drake, University of Calgary, Canada
Scott Radford, University of Calgary, Canada

Read More


G12. The Effect of (Non-)appetizing Ambient Scents on Consumers’ Affinity Toward Vices and Virtues in the Retail Environment

Corinne M Kelley, Florida State University
Anders Gustafsson, Karlstad University
Poja Shams, Karlstad University
Martin Mende, Florida State University
Maura Scott, Florida State University

Read More


The Best of Both Worlds: Androgyny in Consumer Choice

Niusha Jones, University of North Texas
Blair Kidwell, University of North Texas

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.