IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


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


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Schulz-Hardt, Stefan & Thurow-Kröning, Birgit & Frey, Dieter, 2009. "Preference-based escalation: A new interpretation for the responsibility effect in escalating commitment and entrapment," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 108(2), pages 175-186, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:108:y:2009:i:2:p:175-186

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Betsch, Tilmann & Haberstroh, Susanne & Glockner, Andreas & Haar, Thomas & Fiedler, Klaus, 2001. "The Effects of Routine Strength on Adaptation and Information Search in Recurrent Decision Making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 23-53, January.
    2. Axel K-D. Schulz & Mandy M. Cheng, 2002. "Persistence in capital budgeting reinvestment decisions - personal responsibility antecedent and information asymmetry moderator: A note," Accounting and Finance, Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 42(1), pages 73-86.
    3. Davis, Mark A. & Bobko, Philip, 1986. "Contextual effects on escalation processes in public sector decision making," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 121-138, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Schultze, Thomas & Schulz-Hardt, Stefan, 2015. "The impact of biased information and corresponding meta-information on escalating commitment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 108-119.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:108:y:2009:i:2:p:175-186. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.