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Outcome Bias


Outcome bias is a cognitive bias that causes individuals to judge a decision based on its outcome, rather than how the decision was made at the time. It means people judge the quality of a decision when they already know the result, rather than assessing it based on the information available at the time the decision was made. It’s a common error in financial decision-making and investing.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Outcome Bias” is: /ˈaʊtˌkʌm baɪˈæs/

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Outcome Bias refers to the tendency to judge a decision or action based on its ultimate outcome, rather than on the quality or rationality of the decision at the time it was made.
  2. Impact: Outcome bias can distort an individual’s perception of their own success, causing them to overvalue successful outcomes and undervalue failed ones. This can potentially lead to reckless behaviour or poor decision-making in the future.
  3. Minimizing Outcome Bias: To reduce the influence of outcome bias, it is important to focus on the process of decision-making rather than just the results. This includes assessing the available information at the time of the decision, and considering multiple possible outcomes rather than just the single observed result. Continuous learning and adaptation is key to minimizing the effects of outcome bias.


Outcome bias is a crucial concept in business and finance because it pertains to the common cognitive error of judging a decision based on its outcome rather than the quality of the decision at the time it was made. In other words, it is the tendency to evaluate a decision based on the consequences, ignoring the process followed to reach the conclusion. This can lead to a faulty understanding of decision-making effectiveness. For instance, a high-risk investment strategy might yield substantial results in one scenario but could fail consistently in others. If individuals or organizations base their decisions solely on success – regarding the strategy as successful, they might overlook the potential dangers of the strategy, which can lead to poor decisions in the future. Thus, comprehension of outcome bias helps to avoid these pitfalls and aids in better decision-making strategies.


Outcome bias, which can significantly influence decision-making processes within business and finance contexts, relates to our propensity to judge a past decision as good or bad based on its eventual result, rather than the factors that influenced the decision at the time. This bias plays a critical role in managerial assessments, performance evaluations, and investment decisions. For instance, if an investment brings in great returns, we are inclined to view it as a good decision, despite ignoring the fact that the investment might have been highly risky and the favorable result was more due to luck than sound decision-making.In finance, outcome bias can particularly affect how investment strategies are evaluated, potentially leading to imprudent future decisions. Investors tend to regard successful investments as evidence of good strategy, even if they entailed significant risk, while unsuccessful ones may be unfairly labeled as poor decisions. This tendency can prevent the objective assessment of an investment process and potentially cloud future strategies. Avoiding outcome bias can be crucial to recognizing the difference between a good process with a bad outcome and a bad process with a good outcome, aiding in the development of more robust financial strategies.


Outcome Bias refers to the inclination to evaluate a decision based on its final outcome rather than considering the quality of the decision at the time it was made, without the influence of hindsight. Here are three real-world examples:1. Investing in the Stock Market: An investor decides to take a significant risk and invest a large sum of money in a relatively unstable company. If the company subsequently outperforms market expectations and the investor makes a lucrative return, others may view this as a good decision due to the positive outcome. However, at the time the decision was made, it was highly risky and potentially unwise.2. The 2008 Housing Market Crash: Prior to the crash, many banks and mortgage lenders were approving high-risk loans to individuals with poor credit. At the time, this was seen as a profitable decision due to the booming housing market. However, when the market crashed, these decisions were viewed very negatively due to the catastrophic outcomes, despite the fact that many saw them as sound decisions at the time.3. Football Tactics: A football coach decides to go for a two-point conversion instead of the safer option of a field goal. If the conversion is successful, this decision would be viewed favorably due to the positive outcome. However, statistically speaking, the safer bet would be to kick the field goal. The decision to go for the two-point conversion, based purely on the circumstances at the time (without considering the eventual outcome), might be seen as a bad play.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Outcome Bias?

Outcome Bias is a cognitive error made in decision-making when the outcome of a situation, whether positive or negative, influences our judgment of the decision that led to it, irrespective of the quality of the decision at the time it was made.

Can you provide an example of Outcome Bias?

An example of Outcome Bias could be an investor judging a risky investment decision as good because the outcome made them a profit when in reality it was a poorly-made decision that only resulted in a positive outcome due to luck.

How does Outcome Bias affect decision-making?

Outcome Bias affects decision-making by causing individuals to focus on the results of their decisions, rather than the processes and strategies used to arrive at those decisions. This could lead to poor decision-making in the future as the focus on the quality of decisions diminish.

Can Outcome Bias be avoided or minimized?

Yes, to avoid or minimize Outcome Bias, it is crucial to judge decisions based on the quality of the decision-making process at the time it was made rather than the final outcome. It is helpful to implement robust decision-making processes and to stay aware of potential biases.

How does Outcome Bias affect businesses and finance?

In businesses and finance, Outcome Bias can lead to investment mistakes, strategic errors, and inadequate risk management. A decision that led to positive outcomes due to luck might encourage risky behavior and vice versa.

Is Outcome Bias always bad?

Not necessarily. Outcome Bias can sometimes result in learning opportunities. However, it can be harmful if it leads individuals to rely more on luck rather than calculated decisions.

What is the difference between Outcome Bias and Hindsight Bias?

While both Outcome Bias and Hindsight Bias can impact decision-making, there is a difference. Hindsight Bias involves looking back at an event and believing it could have been predicted, while Outcome Bias is judging a decision based on its outcome, regardless of the circumstances at the moment of decision.

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