Vicarious entrapment: Your sunk costs, my escalation of commitment

Brian C. Gunia, Niro Sivanathan, Adam D. Galinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Individuals often honor sunk costs by increasing their commitment to failing courses of action. Since this escalation of commitment is fueled by self-justification processes, a widely offered prescription for preventing escalation is to have separate individuals make the initial and subsequent resource allocation decisions. In contrast to this proposed remedy, four experiments explored whether a psychological connection between two decision-makers leads the second decision-maker to invest further in the failing program orchestrated by the initial decision-maker. Across three different contexts (financial investments, personnel decisions, and auctions), we found that multiple forms of psychological connectedness (perspective-taking, shared attributes, and interdependent mindsets) led decision-makers to vicariously justify others' initial decisions and escalate their own commitment to these decisions - even in the face of direct financial costs to themselves, and even among economics students trained in the irrationality of honoring sunk costs. The ability of subtle psychological connections to undermine the conventional prescription for de-escalation has important implications for organizations, public policy, and theories of escalation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1238-1244
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume45
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

escalation
decision maker
commitment
Psychology
Costs and Cost Analysis
Prescriptions
costs
medication
Resource Allocation
Public Policy
financial investment
auction
Economics
Organizations
Students
remedies
personnel
public policy
experiment
ability

Keywords

  • Escalation of commitment
  • Interdependence
  • Perspective-taking
  • Sunk costs
  • Vicarious self-justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Vicarious entrapment : Your sunk costs, my escalation of commitment. / Gunia, Brian C.; Sivanathan, Niro; Galinsky, Adam D.

In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 45, No. 6, 11.2009, p. 1238-1244.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Gunia, Brian C. ; Sivanathan, Niro ; Galinsky, Adam D. / Vicarious entrapment : Your sunk costs, my escalation of commitment. In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2009 ; Vol. 45, No. 6. pp. 1238-1244.
@article{006a6a1a75874e40babe8dc9b7718799,
title = "Vicarious entrapment: Your sunk costs, my escalation of commitment",
abstract = "Individuals often honor sunk costs by increasing their commitment to failing courses of action. Since this escalation of commitment is fueled by self-justification processes, a widely offered prescription for preventing escalation is to have separate individuals make the initial and subsequent resource allocation decisions. In contrast to this proposed remedy, four experiments explored whether a psychological connection between two decision-makers leads the second decision-maker to invest further in the failing program orchestrated by the initial decision-maker. Across three different contexts (financial investments, personnel decisions, and auctions), we found that multiple forms of psychological connectedness (perspective-taking, shared attributes, and interdependent mindsets) led decision-makers to vicariously justify others' initial decisions and escalate their own commitment to these decisions - even in the face of direct financial costs to themselves, and even among economics students trained in the irrationality of honoring sunk costs. The ability of subtle psychological connections to undermine the conventional prescription for de-escalation has important implications for organizations, public policy, and theories of escalation.",
keywords = "Escalation of commitment, Interdependence, Perspective-taking, Sunk costs, Vicarious self-justification",
author = "Gunia, {Brian C.} and Niro Sivanathan and Galinsky, {Adam D.}",
year = "2009",
month = "11",
doi = "10.1016/j.jesp.2009.07.004",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "45",
pages = "1238--1244",
journal = "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology",
issn = "0022-1031",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "6",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Vicarious entrapment

T2 - Your sunk costs, my escalation of commitment

AU - Gunia, Brian C.

AU - Sivanathan, Niro

AU - Galinsky, Adam D.

PY - 2009/11

Y1 - 2009/11

N2 - Individuals often honor sunk costs by increasing their commitment to failing courses of action. Since this escalation of commitment is fueled by self-justification processes, a widely offered prescription for preventing escalation is to have separate individuals make the initial and subsequent resource allocation decisions. In contrast to this proposed remedy, four experiments explored whether a psychological connection between two decision-makers leads the second decision-maker to invest further in the failing program orchestrated by the initial decision-maker. Across three different contexts (financial investments, personnel decisions, and auctions), we found that multiple forms of psychological connectedness (perspective-taking, shared attributes, and interdependent mindsets) led decision-makers to vicariously justify others' initial decisions and escalate their own commitment to these decisions - even in the face of direct financial costs to themselves, and even among economics students trained in the irrationality of honoring sunk costs. The ability of subtle psychological connections to undermine the conventional prescription for de-escalation has important implications for organizations, public policy, and theories of escalation.

AB - Individuals often honor sunk costs by increasing their commitment to failing courses of action. Since this escalation of commitment is fueled by self-justification processes, a widely offered prescription for preventing escalation is to have separate individuals make the initial and subsequent resource allocation decisions. In contrast to this proposed remedy, four experiments explored whether a psychological connection between two decision-makers leads the second decision-maker to invest further in the failing program orchestrated by the initial decision-maker. Across three different contexts (financial investments, personnel decisions, and auctions), we found that multiple forms of psychological connectedness (perspective-taking, shared attributes, and interdependent mindsets) led decision-makers to vicariously justify others' initial decisions and escalate their own commitment to these decisions - even in the face of direct financial costs to themselves, and even among economics students trained in the irrationality of honoring sunk costs. The ability of subtle psychological connections to undermine the conventional prescription for de-escalation has important implications for organizations, public policy, and theories of escalation.

KW - Escalation of commitment

KW - Interdependence

KW - Perspective-taking

KW - Sunk costs

KW - Vicarious self-justification

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=70350346874&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=70350346874&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.07.004

DO - 10.1016/j.jesp.2009.07.004

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:70350346874

VL - 45

SP - 1238

EP - 1244

JO - Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

JF - Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

SN - 0022-1031

IS - 6

ER -