Talk:Unintended consequences

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Addition to species relocation ie Australian cane toad ref[edit]

While searching for an increase in Honey production Warwick E. Kerr, released an Africanized bee to Brazil and the unintended consequence is the (self willed) bee species expansion to North America. An accidental or purposeful release is a moot point. For increased honey production to be possible, you need a more aggressive-dangerous bee. Might the reference be added? --Mark v1.0 (talk) 19:29, 15 June 2011 (UTC) Nobody objected --Mark v1.0 (talk) 19:00, 26 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I would like to add the Tacoma Narrows Bridge[edit]

[Tacoma Narrows Bridge]an engineering flaw was discovered. They wanted a bridge, built one, then the bridge failed (unintended)

  • "The Tacoma Narrows bridge failure has given us invaluable information...It has shown [that] every new structure [that] projects into new fields of magnitude involves new problems for the solution of which neither theory nor practical experience furnish an adequate guide. It is then that we must rely largely on judgement and if, as a result, errors, or failures occur, we must accept them as a price for human progress"Othmar Ammann, — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mark v1.0 (talkcontribs) 19:11, 26 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Although not too many bridges are build with the intention they will fall down, this isn't an example of an "unintended consequence". It's was just bad engineering made famous because 1) it was a big deal, and 2) there is dramatic footage of its collapse. An unintended consequence here would be something like: Build a bridge to relieve traffic on ferry X. The bridge allows easier access to a previously low population area. That area becomes populated and increases traffic both on the bridge and on ferry X.BBODO (talk) 19:52, 8 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Building’s Glass Reflection[edit] 55 Almaden Blvd San Jose, CA 95113 has a building that focuses sunlight into the same area, the consequence is that the lawn is all burnt. Its pretty funny! - --Mark v1.0 (talk) 19:53, 26 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Merger proposal[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
The result of this discussion was to MERGE MakeSense64 (talk) 13:17, 15 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Somebody else put a merger tag on Unintended consequences of environmental intervention, proposing to bring it here. So, creating the merger discussion for it. MakeSense64 (talk) 07:50, 20 January 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Comment - I think this merger is a good idea. In environment we have some of the best examples of unintended consequences. It would expand and improve the article here. MakeSense64 (talk) 07:51, 20 January 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • I agree. Although the current stub has merit as a stand-alone article, it could work as a section of this one. Merge and substitute with a Redirect with possibilities pointing to this section. Diego (talk) 09:15, 20 January 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

Cleanup needed[edit]

I just completed the merger, because it made no sense to have two articles about unintended consequences. But the merged materials look a bit out of place in their own section, and also come without sources. I also just noticed the "examples" section asks to not add more examples without coming to Talk. I guess this are the unintended consequences of merging articles. ;-) Cleanup needed, but how to go ahead? MakeSense64 (talk) 14:59, 15 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Moth apple tree" dubious[edit]

I have tagged the reference as dubious. See User:Luridhue and [[1]], for example. Can anyone find more verifiable info? -- Reify-tech (talk)

Good spot, it's a joke from the excellently deadpan BBC comedy series Look Around You. I don't know if the fox stuff was added by the same editor, but looking for sources, foxes seem to have been introduced to Australia for hunting purposes, not to keep down the rabbits. (The article also mentions Australian rabbits twice, so still needs some cleanup.) --McGeddon (talk) 15:19, 15 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The reference seems to have come as an unintended consequence of the merger from Unintended consequences of environmental intervention, which in turn got it from Boomerang effect? I'm not yet adept at tracing edit histories of defunct articles, but I'm curious how long this little jape has been lurking in Wikipedia. -- Reify-tech (talk) 15:24, 15 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Was just tracing it myself. It went into boomerang effect in May last year, and was unrelated to the fox statement. Looks like the same IP added a few other innocuous-looking Look Around You references, I'll make sure they're not still around. --McGeddon (talk) 15:29, 15 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am to blame for this merger, but since both articles were rather small I think it was an obvious merge. The Australian rabbits appear twice, so we need to clean up. I wonder whether it would not be better to restructure the article and sort the examples differently. Subsections for "benefits", "drawbacks" and "perverse" look questionable to me. Why not sort them in subsections like "Social", "Economical", "Environmental", "Political", "Medical", "Pyschological".. maybe other... MakeSense64 (talk) 15:40, 15 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No complaints about the merger, I think your proposal Makes Sense. 8^) -- Reify-tech (talk) 15:48, 15 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Peltzman Effect[edit]

There is an onerous warning not to add any more examples to the "Perverse Results" Section. Six doesn't seem "too many" to me, especially for the common, named ones (e.g. Streisand Effect). There are lots of perverse results which can be listed here, and that list can become unwieldy, but a list of named specific effects is appropriate here. Also, the warning/threat indicates need to discuss it on the Talk page, but there is NO discussion of that on this page. There is no mention of risk compensation on this page which is a pretty significant contribution to Unintended Consequences. Therefore, i propose adding:

  • Risk compensation or the Peltzman effect occurs after implementation of safety measures intended to reduce injury or death (e.g. bike helmets, seatbelts, . People may feel safer than they really are and take additional risks which they would not have taken without the safety measures in place. This may result in an increased morbidity or mortality, rather than a decrease as intended. — Preceding unsigned comment added by BBODO (talkcontribs) 19:43, 8 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Mandatory bicycle helmet laws in Victoria, Australia as an example of a negative unintended consequence[edit]

The effect of the introduction of mandatory helmet laws in Australia in the early 1990s on cycling participation was complex and seems to have varied quite a bit from state to state and accross age groups, There is a lot of debate about interpretation of the available data from that time, and debate over whether any effects on cycling were transient or enduring and if so, to what degree. A glance at the relevant WP articles - see Bicycle helmet and Bicycle helmets in Australia - and their Talk pages and edit histories will demonstrate just how much controversy there is over whether mandatory helmet laws, and bicycle helmets in general, are good or bad. As it stands, the description of the issue in this article is distinctly non-NPOV in my opinion. It is difficult to see how to correct that succinctly. Given all this, I propose removal of the issue from this article - the complex and highly disputed effects of the introduction mandatory bicycle helmet laws on cycling participation is not a clear example of unintended consequences. In fact, it is not even clear that effects on cycling participation were unintended, or at least, unanticipated - governments in Australia at the time may have considered any such a trade-off as worthwhile. BTW, the benefit-cost model by de Jong referred to in the paragraph in this article, although carried out by an Australian researcher, did not examine the case of Australia, only European and North American countries. And on the very next page of the journal in which it was published there is an alternative benefit-cost model for mandatory bicycle helmets which shows a net positive benefit i.e. the opposite result! Tim C (talk) 07:20, 11 May 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am not sure whether it is worth mentioning, but throughout the world, where crash helmet laws have been introduced, the number of organ donations has declined and waiting lists for some have increased due to less Motorcyclists being killed. However, it should be added that combining those who die while on the waiting lists and motorcyclist deaths, does show a reduced mortality rate. (talk) 22:21, 27 June 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

dropping crime rates that occurred in the 1990s better explained by unleaded fuel[edit]

Crime rates followed the use and disuse of leaded gasoline. It rose after introduction and fell after its disuse. It was hard to spot, because of the time lag of 23 years -- roughly a generation. Much better correlation, even to the country, state and even neighbourhood level depending upon when lead was introduced and when it was banned vs the abortion theory.

Lots of hits here: Google search for 'unleaded gasoline crime rates'

The following link is a nice summary, but there are easy-to-find links to published papers: "We now have studies at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level."

Mother Jones article from 2013

I'm not suggesting that the above be added, but only that the abortion entry be removed as it is not only "controversial" but the least credible explanation of the two theories.

Interestingly, if I were to argue for the inclusion of the leaded fuel theory's impact on crime, the introduction of it could be entered into the 'drawback' list and its withdrawal into the 'benefit' list. Kind of interesting in that way. I merely logged into point out there was a much better competing theory with plenty of data against the abortion reduces crime theory.

I don't log in very often, so I wouldn't presume to actually edit the page without discussion. As well, I'm not very well up on wiki culture and editing anyhow.


"In the social sciences . . ."[edit]

While the article may be about the "ethical concept" and the discoverer of the concept may have been a social scientist, the majority of the examples cited in the article do NOT come from the social sciences world. I think the introductory text needs to be modified to incorporate this aspect.PhuDoi1 (talk) 14:23, 10 July 2013 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Duplessis Orphans[edit]

I wish to add Duplessis Orphans to the perverse results section. Up to 20,000 human beings were injured in Quebec, Canada from the misdiagnosis of mental illness for a higher Government paycheck.--Mark v1.0 (talk) 22:39, 28 November 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No one objected, so I placed the entry.--Mark v1.0 (talk) 02:15, 8 December 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The entry disappeared and I could not trace it back to when, so I re-entered the [Duplessis Orphans]].--Mark v1.0 (talk) 17:20, 18 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Cockpit Doors[edit]

A worldwide practice of locking cockpit doors, which emerged of course after 9/11 as a way of keeping terrorists out, can also keep a potential rescuer of the plane outside the cockpit if the terrorist or murderer is already inside. Is this an "unexpected drawback" or a "perverse result," in the typology of the article? --Christofurio (talk) 13:27, 28 March 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Addition to Unintended Consequences Page[edit]

Hello, Under the definition maybe we can add Edward Woddhouse's definition, a Science, Technology, and Society proffesor from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he defines "unintended consequences as the “primary, secondary, tertiary, and additional outcomes emerging not from innovators’ intentions but because of unforeseen (or at least unprotected against) interactions between the innovation and the world.”

Also there is mention of Adam Smith however you can use his metaphor of the "invisible hand" in which he describes positive unintended consequence in economics.

Invisible hand has been added. --TomorrowHarvest (talk) 16:05, 19 December 2022 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Finally to help strengthen the argument an example of unexpected benefits is when Airline executives declare a fare sale when the demand for seats are low, therefore college students are able to go on vacation and able to have amazing experiences and enjoy themselves and create jobs for other people. (airline staff, rental car agents, restaurant employees, etc.)

While an example of unexpected drawbacks is that the daily use of hydrocarbon fueled vehicles, which release large amounts of toxic chemicals into the air, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, benzene, and formaldehyde. All of which were not necessarily the main focus of the technology, but rather a side effect which is unintended.

We are students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute taken a course in Science, Technology, & Society and this is what we would like to contribute to the page. — Preceding unsigned comment added by STSS-03UCGroup (talkcontribs) 18:31, 21 April 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Not an original idea attributable to Merton. A thousand year old idea[edit]

As far as I can tell the entire influence of Aristotle on the theory of human action has been erased from wikipedia. In particular, here there is no mention of aristotle, the page unintended consequences claims the notion was coined by Thomas Merton, the page on Human action cycle claims it was formed by Dan Norman. I cant find the simple subcategories of action I was taught in catholic school decades ago and that were attributed to Aristotle and Aquinas, that are in fact the basis of criminal law rational choice theory (criminology). Those stages were roughly: motivation precedes intention precedes action precedes consequence, precedes evaluation. This doctrine is probably hundreds if not thousands of years old-- how have its roots been lost?Mrdthree (talk) 00:31, 29 May 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Canadian orphans[edit]

"Beginning in the 1940's and continuing into the 1960's, the Federal Canadian government gave $2.25 per day, per psychiatric patient to the Catholic church in Quebec for their cost of care, and only $0.70 a day per orphan. The perverse result is that the orphan children were diagnosed mentally ill so the church could receive the larger amount of money. This psychiatric misdiagnosis affected up to 20,000 people, the children are known as the Duplessis Orphans." is mentioned twice in the article. Kap 7 (talk) 15:36, 25 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Also, I noticed the $ amount for orphans in the Duplessis Orphans article disagrees with this article. Kap 7 (talk) 16:29, 25 July 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The exact dollar number is slightly variable depending on the source article. Yes , it is a problem "Canadian orphans" is listed in two places. I will now remove the entry from one.--Mark v1.0 (talk) 20:46, 7 August 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Link number 54 has a number value of 75 cents instead of 70 cents? You want to fix it?--Mark v1.0 (talk) 20:51, 7 August 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Reference link 54 and 55 go to newspaper articles that cite $0.75 dollars/cents, and I corrected it to 75. --Mark v1.0 (talk) 20:15, 8 August 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]
After reading the sources I see what you mean about the $ discrepancies. I'm not sure what to think on that... fortunately, they aren't wildly inaccurate - they still give the reader a realistic understanding. Thanks for fixing the double entry issue. I was tempted to remove one but didn't want to mess up sourcing and wasn't sure the best section to leave it in. Kap 7 (talk) 21:22, 8 August 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

William Oliver Healey[edit]

This is the story about an anti-European Union campaigner and the 2016 "remain or leave" referendum in the UK. Healey believes that his side (Leave) were going to lose the referendum, so he he created an online E-petition to the UK Parliament suggesting that thresholds be set. The intended consequence was to give the Leave side a second referendum. However, Leave did win, and within four days, the number of signatures calling for a second referendum reached nearly 4 million signatures at which stage Healey protested that the Remain campaigners had hijacked his petition. Normally the total signatures in all E-petitions to the UK Parliament total about 6.5 million in any year.

I am not entirely sure because there has yet to be a second referendum, if it can be said this meets the criteria for inclusion. However, it is clear from comments that Healey makes, that he did not intend this to be used to allow the Remain side to have the chance of a second referendum. (talk) 22:13, 27 June 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Relate Merton to Max Weber[edit]

I have added a reference to how Merton's usage differs from Max Weber's definitions of instrumentally rational and value-rational action.TBR-qed (talk) 20:36, 4 July 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Outdated Sources[edit]

Vulcan, A.P., Cameron, M.H. & Watson, W.L., "Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Use: Experience in Victoria, Australia", World Journal of Surgery, Vol. 16, No. 3, (May/June 1992), pp. 389–397.

It seems to me that this source is quite outdated, being that it is from 1992. It may be worth looking to find some new data to prove this point.Kali Moumblow (talk) 19:59, 28 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]


It seems there are too many examples of unintended consequences. The examples section is longer than the actual description. I would look at refining the examples to the best ones. Polster.takala (talk) 01:03, 29 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Redundant reference section[edit]

I think the reference section should be deleted because it is less complete and redundant with the Notes section. -Reagle (talk) 12:00, 16 May 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

mismatching example?[edit]

from the article: Increasing usage of search engines, also including recent image search features, has contributed in the ease of which media is consumed. Some abnormalities in usage may have shifted preferences for pornographic film actors, as the producers began using common search queries or tags to label the actors in new roles.

What's the perverse effect here? Based on which intervention? --Ibn Battuta (talk) 15:50, 27 December 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

dear article editors, go and read herbert spencer's man vs the state - easily found all over the www. there are many instances of unintended consequences of well-meant legislation.