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

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

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.

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
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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.
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    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.

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