Promoting de-escalation of commitment: A regulatory-focus perspective on sunk costs

Daniel C. Molden, Chin Ming Hui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


People frequently escalate their commitment to failing endeavors. Explanations for such behavior typically involve loss aversion, failure to recognize other alternatives, and concerns with justifying prior actions; all of these factors produce recommitment to previous decisions with the goal of erasing losses and vindicating these decisions. Solutions to escalation of commitment have therefore focused on external oversight and divided responsibility during decision making to attenuate loss aversion, blindness to alternatives, and justification biases. However, these solutions require substantial resources and have additional adverse effects. The present studies tested an alternative method for de-escalating commitment: activating broad motivations for growth and advancement (promotion). This approach should reduce concerns with loss and increase perceptions of alternatives, thereby attenuating justification motives. In two studies featuring hypothetical financial decisions, activating promotion motivations reduced recommitment to poorly performing investments as compared with both not activating any additional motivations and activating motivations for safety and security (prevention).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-12
Number of pages5
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • decision biases
  • motivated decision making
  • regulatory focus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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