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The Econometrics and Behavioral Economics of Escalation of Commitment: A Re-examination of Staw and Hoang's NBA Data

  • Camerer, Colin F.
  • Weber, Roberto A.

We examine the phenomenon of escalation from an economist's perspective, emphasizing explanations which do not rule out rational behavior on the part of firms or agents. We argue that escalation cannot be established as a separate phenomenon unless these possible alternative explanations are properly accounted for. We present Staw and Hoang's (1995) study of NBA data as an instance of where evidence of escalation might be overturned upon more careful analysis. After performing several tests of our alternative explanations, we find that evidence of escalation persists, although it is weaker both in duration and magnitude.

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Paper provided by California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences in its series Working Papers with number 1043.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Aug 1998
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published: Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization , 1999
Handle: RePEc:clt:sswopa:1043
Contact details of provider: Postal: Working Paper Assistant, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences, 228-77, Caltech, Pasadena CA 91125
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Web page: http://www.hss.caltech.edu/ss
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  1. Scharfstein, David S & Stein, Jeremy C, 1990. "Herd Behavior and Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 465-79, June.
  2. Arkes, Hal R. & Blumer, Catherine, 1985. "The psychology of sunk cost," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 124-140, February.
  3. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  4. Zwiebel, Jeffrey, 1995. "Corporate Conservatism and Relative Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(1), pages 1-25, February.
  5. Prendergast, Canice & Stole, Lars, 1996. "Impetuous Youngsters and Jaded Old-Timers: Acquiring a Reputation for Learning," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1105-34, December.
  6. McCarthy, Anne M. & Schoorman, F. David & Cooper, Arnold C., 1993. "Reinvestment decisions by entrepreneurs: Rational decision-making or escalation of commitment?," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 9-24, January.
  7. 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.
  8. Daniel Kahneman & Dan Lovallo, 1993. "Timid Choices and Bold Forecasts: A Cognitive Perspective on Risk Taking," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(1), pages 17-31, January.
  9. Nardinelli, Clark & Simon, Curtis, 1990. "Customer Racial Discrimination in the Market for Memorabilia: The Case of Baseball," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 575-95, August.
  10. Weber, Martin & Camerer, Colin F., 1998. "The disposition effect in securities trading: an experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 167-184, January.
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