Research output

When Action-Inaction Framing Leads to Higher Escalation of Commitment: A New Inaction-Effect Perspective on the Sunk-Cost Fallacy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Associated researcher

  • Feldman, G.
  • Wong, K. F. E.

Associated organisations


Escalation of commitment to a failing course of action occurs in the presence of (a) sunk costs, (b) negative feedback that things are deviating from expectations, and (c) a decision between escalation and de-escalation. Most of the literature to date has focused on sunk costs, yet we offer a new perspective on the classic escalation-of-commitment phenomenon by focusing on the impact of negative feedback. On the basis of the inaction-effect bias, we theorized that negative feedback results in the tendency to take action, regardless of what that action may be. In four experiments, we demonstrated that people facing escalation-decision situations were indeed action oriented and that framing escalation as action and de-escalation as inaction resulted in a stronger tendency to escalate than framing de-escalation as action and escalation as inaction (mini-meta-analysis effect d = 0.37, 95% confidence interval = [0.21, 0.53]).

    Research areas

  • Journal Article, ACTION ORIENTATION, DECISION, BIG MUDDY, BIAS, sunk costs, inaction effect, open materials, RISK, escalation of commitment, open data, PSYCHOLOGY, ATTITUDES, action effect, preregistered, action-inaction framing, STATE ORIENTATION, REGRET, PROGRESS
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-548
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018