from the SAGE Social Science Collections. All Rights Reserved.
Comparison Processes in Hindsight and Causal Attribution
It was hypothesized that hindsight effects and biased causal attributions both result from the causal explanations that perceivers construct when linking antecedents to outcomes at encoding. Specifically, the likelihood of a particular outcome and its perceived causal origins should depend on the number of causal antecedents available, the complexity of subjects' outcome explanations, and the number of outcome alternatives considered. After subjects were exposed to variations in event-specific information, they either learned the outcome or not and then explained one or more outcome alternatives. As predicted, estimates of outcome likelihood were inflated as the complexity of subjects' causal explanations increased. However, inducing subjects to explain alternative outcomes-particularly several alternative outcomes-reduced their tendency to exaggerate the likelihood of the known outcomes. Similarly, causal attributions varied as a function of the outcome alternatives explained and the number of causal antecedents presented. Implications for legal strategies are discussed.