When evaluating the outcome of an action, a distinction can be made between the action’s direct and indirect effects. Although the boundary between these two categories is often imprecise, direct effects are those effects that are relatively obvious and intended. Indirect effects, in turn, are effects which are either non-obvious - meaning that it is difficult to determine whether or to what extent they follows from the relevant actions - or unintended or both.
For instance, reduced malaria incidence is a relatively direct effect of bed-net distribution, whereas more indirect effects may include improved education and increased GDP growth (which in turn may have even further long-run effects).
Many kinds of indirect effects have received attention within the effective altruism community, including the following:
- negative side-effects of dissemination of information
- negative-side effects of rule-breaking
- replaceability effects