The promise and peril of self-affirmation in de-escalation of commitment

Niro Sivanathan*, Daniel C. Molden, Adam D. Galinsky, Gillian Ku

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Drawing on the motivated cognition literature, we examine how self-affirmation processes influence self-justification needs and escalation decisions. Study 1 found that individuals with a larger pool of affirmational resources (high self-esteem) reduced their escalation compared to those with fewer affirmational resources (low self-esteem). Study 2 extended these findings by demonstrating that individuals also de-escalated their commitments when they were provided an opportunity to affirm on an important value. Finally, Study 3 found that affirming on traits that were of low relevance (e.g., creativity) to an initial decision reduced escalation, but affirming on decision-relevant traits (e.g., decision-making ability) ironically increased escalation. Across three studies, using three instantiations of self-affirmations and two measures of escalation, the results highlight the potential benefits and costs of using self-affirmation as a vehicle to de-escalate commitment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2008


  • Escalation of commitment
  • Motivated-cognition
  • Self-affirmation
  • Self-justification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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