Stefan Schulz-Hardt, Birgit Thurow-Kröning and Dieter Frey

Preference-based escalation: A new interpretation for the responsibility effect in escalating commitment and entrapment

Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes

Abstract: A prominent finding in escalating commitment and entrapment research is the “responsibility effect”: people invest more in a losing course of action or persist with it for longer if they themselves initiated this action (responsibility) as opposed to if it was assigned to them. We argue that this effect is driven by participants’ preferences. Responsible participants usually prefer the chosen alternative since they have chosen it themselves. Non-responsible participants, in contrast, represent a mix of persons who either favor or disfavor the chosen alternative. In two experiments, we demonstrate that responsible participants favor the chosen course of action more strongly than non-responsible participants do, that these preferences facilitate reinvestment in and persistence with the chosen course of action, and that responsibility has no effect over and above this effect of preferences. Non-responsible participants preferring the chosen course of action made similar reinvestments and exhibited similar persistence as responsible participants. [Copyright &y& Elsevier]

Accession Number: 36682251; Schulz-Hardt, Stefan 1; Email Address:; Thurow-Kröning, Birgit 2; Frey, Dieter 2; Affiliations: 1: Institute of Psychology, Economic and Social Psychology unit, Georg-August-University Goettingen, Gosslerstrasse 14, D-37073 Goettingen, Germany; 2: Department of Psychology, Social Psychology Unit, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Leopoldstrasse 13, D-80802 Munich, Germany; Issue Info: Mar2009, Vol. 108 Issue 2, p175; Thesaurus Term: Decision making; Subject Term: Responsibility; Subject Term: Persistence; Subject Term: Commitment (Psychology); Subject Term: Psychology; Subject Term: Choice (Psychology); Author-Supplied Keyword: Entrapment; Author-Supplied Keyword: Escalation of commitment; Author-Supplied Keyword: Preference effect; Author-Supplied Keyword: Responsibility effect; Author-Supplied Keyword: Self-justification; Author-Supplied Keyword: Sunk cost; Number of Pages: 12p; Document Type: Article