Date of Graduation

Spring 2014


Master of Science in Psychology



Committee Chair

David Lutz


hindsight bias, ethics, clinicians, outcome bias, negligence

Subject Categories



Hindsight bias is the tendency for people to overestimate the predictability of an event after its occurrence. Hindsight bias has been found to affect a variety of areas, including ethics. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between hindsight bias and student judgments of clinicians' ethicality. Eighty students were randomly assigned to receive either no outcome, a positive outcome (client did not commit suicide), or a negative outcome (client committed suicide) and asked to read two scenarios depicting a therapist working with a suicidal client. Participants made judgments of foreseeability and inevitability and rated both positive (i.e., the therapist was ethical, reasonable, appropriate) and negative (i.e., the therapist was negligent, should be punished, a lawsuit should be filed) characteristics of the therapist. Foreseeability and inevitability measures did not produce any significant effects supportive of hindsight bias. Composite measures for positive and negative characteristics of the therapist revealed a consistent effect of condition. Tukey post hoc analyses show that the therapist was seen to be higher for negative characteristics (i.e. more negligent and more deserving of punishment or a lawsuit) when comparing the negative outcome group to the positive and no outcome groups. The therapist was also seen to be lower in positive characteristics (i.e. less ethical, reasonable, and appropriate) when comparing the negative outcome to the no outcome condition. These results show the importance of negative outcome information for ethical judgments by participants.


© Brittany Nicole Haus

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