Nonconsequential reasoning and its consequences

Anthony Bastardi, Eldar Shafir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


According to consequentialism, which underlies the rational theory of choice, decisions should be determined by an assessment of the potential consequences. People, however, do not always consider the relevance of missing information in a consequentialist manner. As a result, they sometimes pursue noninstrumental information -information that may appear relevant but ought not alter the decision. Having pursued such information, people misconstrue it as instrumental for the decision and proceed to make choices they would not otherwise have made. This pattern is observed in the context of consumer, medical, and negotiation decisions. In one scenario, for example, participants made a hypothetical decision about whether to purchase a CD player. Those who chose to postpone and then found out about another component's repair cost were less likely to buy the CD player than those who knew about the required repair cost from the start. Because the initial pursuit and ensuing use of obtained information appear exceedingly reasonable, such decision patterns may be difficult to learn to avoid, yielding decisions that are influenced by contextual nuances that ought not matter. Further research may explore cognitive and motivational factors in nonconsequential reasoning and their normative and prescriptive implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-219
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • Consequentialism
  • Decision making
  • Information pursuit
  • Self-perception
  • Uncertainty


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