Thinking through uncertainty: Nonconsequential reasoning and choice

Eldar Shafir, Amos Tversky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

452 Scopus citations


When thinking under uncertainty, people often do not consider appropriately each of the relevant branches of a decision tree, as required by consequentialism. As a result they sometimes violate Savage's sure-thing principle. In the Prisoner's Dilemma game, for example, many subjects compete when they know that the opponent has competed and when they know that the opponent has cooperated, but cooperate when they do not know the opponent's response. Newcomb's Problem and Wason's selection task are also interpreted as manifestations of nonconsequential decision making and reasoning. The causes and implications of such behavior, and the notion of quasi-magical thinking, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-474
Number of pages26
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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