Sunk-Cost Effects Made Ancient Societies Vulnerable to Collapse
The collapse of ancient societies such as the Mesa Verde-region pre-Hispanic Pueblos has puzzled generations of scientists. Many explanations for particular cases have been suggested, from combinations of social, political and economic factors (Tainter 1988), to climatic factors such as drought. Here we propose a new hypothesis, suggesting why precisely societies that invested in impressive structures became vulnerable to disturbances. Empirical evidence shows that humans have a strong tendency to hold on to previous investments even if this is a rationally bad choice. We argue that this leads to a tendency not to abandon settlements if much has been invested in them, even if resources become scarce. We use a stylized model to illustrate under which conditions sunk-cost-related collapse is likely, and present archeological evidence that sunk-cost effects may be important in explaining the delayed demise (relative to hamlets) of pre-Hispanic Puebloan villages in the face of resource stress.
To our knowledge, this item is not available for
download. To find whether it is available, there are three
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.
|Date of creation:||Feb 2002|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501|
Web page: http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/publications/working-papers.html
More information through EDIRC
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:02-02-007. 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: (Thomas Krichel)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.