Outcome bias in decision evaluation

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1988 Apr;54(4):569-79. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.54.4.569.


In 5 studies, undergraduate subjects were given descriptions and outcomes of decisions made by others under conditions of uncertainty. Decisions concerned either medical matters or monetary gambles. Subjects rated the quality of thinking of the decisions, the competence of the decision maker, or their willingness to let the decision maker decide on their behalf. Subjects understood that they had all relevant information available to the decision maker. Subjects rated the thinking as better, rated the decision maker as more competent, or indicated greater willingness to yield the decision when the outcome was favorable than when it was unfavorable. In monetary gambles, subjects rated the thinking as better when the outcome of the option not chosen turned out poorly than when it turned out well. Although subjects who were asked felt that they should not consider outcomes in making these evaluations, they did so. This effect of outcome knowledge on evaluation may be explained partly in terms of its effect on the salience of arguments for each side of the choice. Implications for the theory of rationality and for practical situations are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Gambling
  • Humans
  • Medicine
  • Probability
  • Thinking