Research on outcome bias has shown that blame attributions for behavioral decisions depend on the decision's consequences. Five studies of American undergraduates (N = 219, N = 83, N = 62, N = 279, and N = 45, respectively) demonstrated robust outcome effects across a variety of circumstances. A manipulation of prior negligence (Study 1), and attempts to keep prior negligence exceedingly low (Studies 2-4) produced converging results. In Study 5, a within-participants manipulation failed to eradicate outcome effects. Furthermore, outcome effects were not moderated by beliefs in a just world. Across all studies, mediational analyses suggested that participants adjusted estimates of negligence to match outcomes, which in turn led to more outcome-consistent attributions of blame. Study 5 showed that those low in belief in a just world were especially likely to adjust their negligence ratings in this way. These studies demonstrate that outcome effects contravene both the standards for rationality delineated by rational decision theorists, and also the more relaxed standards embodied in established legal doctrine.
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