Escalating commitment (or escalation) refers to the tendency for decision makers to persist with failing courses of action. The present article first reviews evidence suggesting that escalation is determined, at least in part, by decision makers' unwillingness to admit that their prior allocation of resources to the chosen course of action was in vain (the self-justification explanation). A distinction is drawn in the second part of the article between alternative (to self-justification) explanations of escalating commitment: Some are designed to replace self-justification, whereas others are intended to supplement self-justification, that is, to add explanatory power beyond that which can be accounted for by self-justification. There is little evidence that the replacement theories provide a better explanation than does self-justification; however, theories designed to supplement self-justification are likely to lead to a more complete explanation. The article concludes by describing several research strategies that may lead to progress in explaining escalating commitment.
Brockner, Joel. "The Escalation of Commitment to a Failing Course of Action: Towards Theoretical Progress." Academy of Management Review 17, no. 1 (January 1992): 39-61.
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