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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

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Friedman & Kai Pommerenke & Rajan Lukose & Garrett Milam & Bernardo Huberman, 2007. "Searching for the sunk cost fallacy," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(1), pages 79-104, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:10:y:2007:i:1:p:79-104
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-006-9134-0
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    2. Buchheit, Steve & Feltovich, Nick, 2010. "Experimental evidence of a sunk–cost paradox: a study of pricing behavior in Bertrand–Edgeworth duopoly," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-124, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
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    4. Irfanoglu, Zeynep & Mago, Shakun & Sheremeta, Roman, 2015. "New Hampshire Effect: Behavior in Sequential and Simultaneous Election Contests," MPRA Paper 67520, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Haita-Falah, Corina, 2017. "Sunk-cost fallacy and cognitive ability in individual decision-making," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 44-59.
    6. Ferdinand M. Vieider, 2008. "Separating Real Incentives and Accountability," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 08-055/1, Tinbergen Institute.
    7. 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.
    8. Ho, Teck Hua & Png, Ivan P. L. & Reza, Sadat, 2017. "Sunk Cost Fallacy in Driving the World's Costliest Cars," MPRA Paper 82139, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    12. Sheremeta, Roman M., 2010. "Experimental comparison of multi-stage and one-stage contests," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 731-747, March.
    13. Gyun Cheol Gu, 2015. "Why Have U.S. Prices Become Independent of Business Cycles?," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(4), pages 661-685, November.
    14. Blanchard, Pierre, 2012. "The determinants of firm exit in the French food industries," Revue d'Etudes en Agriculture et Environnement, Editions NecPlus, vol. 93(02), pages 193-212, June.
    15. Pedro Robalo & Rei S. Sayag, 2012. "Information at a Cost: A Lab Experiment," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-143/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    16. Sheremeta, Roman, 2009. "Essays on Experimental Investigation of Lottery Contests," MPRA Paper 49888, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Andreas Ortmann & Leonidas Spiliopoulos, 2017. "The beauty of simplicity? (Simple) heuristics and the opportunities yet to be realized," Chapters,in: Handbook of Behavioural Economics and Smart Decision-Making, chapter 7, pages 119-136 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. 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).
    19. R. Preston Mcafee & Hugo M. Mialon & Sue H. Mialon, 2010. "Do Sunk Costs Matter?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(2), pages 323-336, April.
    20. Cary Deck & Roman M. Sheremeta, 2012. "Fight or Flight?," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 56(6), pages 1069-1088, December.
    21. Esposito De Falco Salvatore & Renzi Antonio, 2015. "The Role of Sunk Cost and Slack Resources in Innovation: A Conceptual Reading in an Entrepreneurial Perspective," Entrepreneurship Research Journal, De Gruyter, vol. 5(3), pages 167-179, July.
    22. Anouar El Haji & Sander Onderstal, 2015. "Trading Places: An Experimental Comparison of Reallocation Mechanisms for Priority Queuing," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-063/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    23. 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.
    24. 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.
    25. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments

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