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Searching for the sunk cost fallacy

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  • Daniel Friedman

    ()

  • Kai Pommerenke
  • Rajan Lukose
  • Garrett Milam
  • Bernardo Huberman

Abstract

We seek to isolate in the laboratory factors that encourage and discourage the sunk cost fallacy. Subjects play a computer game in which they decide whether to keep digging for treasure on an island or to sink a cost (which will turn out to be either high or low) to move to another island. The research hypothesis is that subjects will stay longer on islands that were more costly to find. Eleven treatment variables are considered, e.g. alternative visual displays, whether the treasure value of an island is shown on arrival or discovered by trial and error, and alternative parameters for sunk costs. The data reveal a surprisingly small sunk cost effect that is generally insensitive to the proposed psychological drivers. Copyright Economic Science Association 2007

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10683-006-9134-0
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Experimental Economics.

Volume (Year): 10 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 79-104

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Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:10:y:2007:i:1:p:79-104

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=102888

Related research

Keywords: Sunk costs; Sunk cost fallacy; Search; Self-justification; Loss aversion;

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References

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  1. Sonnemans, Joep, 2000. "Decisions and strategies in a sequential search experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 91-102, February.
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  3. Garland, Howard & Newport, Stephanie, 1991. "Effects of absolute and relative sunk costs on the decision to persist with a course of action," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 55-69, February.
  4. Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Psychology and Economics," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8jd5z5j2, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
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  14. Sonnemans, Joep, 1998. "Strategies of search," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 309-332, April.
  15. Lorne Carmichael & W. Bentley MacLeod, 2003. "Caring About Sunk Costs: A Behavioral Solution to Holdup Problems with Small Stakes," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 106-118, April.
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  18. Heath, Chip, 1995. "Escalation and De-escalation of Commitment in Response to Sunk Costs: The Role of Budgeting in Mental Accounting," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 38-54, April.
  19. Friedman,Daniel & Sunder,Shyam, 1994. "Experimental Methods," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521456821, October.
  20. Meyer, Donald J., 1993. "First price auctions with entry: An experimental investigation," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 107-122.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Nava Ashraf & James Berry & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2010. "Can Higher Prices Stimulate Product Use? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Zambia," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(5), pages 2383-2413, December.
  2. Roman M. Sheremeta, 2009. "Experimental Comparison of Multi-Stage and One-Stage Contests," Working Papers 09-04, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
  3. Pierre Blanchard & Jean-Pierre Huiban & Claude Mathieu, 2012. "The determinants of firm exit in the French food industries," Review of Agricultural and Environmental Studies - Revue d'Etudes en Agriculture et Environnement, INRA Department of Economics, vol. 93(2), pages 193-212.
  4. Doğan, Gönül & van Assen, Marcel & Potters, Jan, 2013. "The effect of link costs on simple buyer–seller networks," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 229-246.
  5. Borland, Jeff & Lee, Leng & Macdonald, Robert D., 2011. "Escalation effects and the player draft in the AFL," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 371-380, June.
  6. X. Wang & Bill Yang, 2010. "The sunk-cost effect and optimal two-part pricing," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 101(2), pages 133-148, October.
  7. Ketel, Nadine & Linde, Jona & Oosterbeek, Hessel & van der Klaauw, Bas, 2014. "Tuition Fees as a Commitment Device," IZA Discussion Papers 7951, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Wichardt, Philipp C. & Schunk, Daniel & Schmitz, Patrick W., 2009. "Participation costs for responders can reduce rejection rates in ultimatum bargaining," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 33-35, April.
  9. James C. Cox & Daniel T. Hall, 2010. "Trust with Private and Common Property: Effects of Stronger Property Right Entitlements," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2010-07, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
  10. Steve Buchheit & Nick Feltovich, 2011. "Experimental Evidence Of A Sunk‐Cost Paradox: A Study Of Pricing Behavior In Bertrand–Edgeworth Duopoly," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 52(2), pages 317-347, 05.
  11. Deck, Cary & Sheremeta, Roman, 2012. "Fight or Flight?," MPRA Paper 52130, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. Pedro Robalo & Rei S. Sayag, 2012. "Information at a Cost: A Lab Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-143/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
  13. Ferdinand M. Vieider, 2008. "Separating Real Incentives and Accountability," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 08-055/1, Tinbergen Institute.
  14. Pedro Robalo & Rei S. Sayag, 2012. "Information at a Cost: A Lab Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-143/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
  15. Sheremeta, Roman, 2009. "Essays on Experimental Investigation of Lottery Contests," MPRA Paper 49888, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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