Reducing and Exaggerating Escalation of Commitment by Option Partitioning

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Options under escalation situations can be presented as a general class (e.g., investing in electronic products) or be partitioned into disjunctive suboptions within that class (e.g., investing in MP3 players, portable TV game consoles, and other electronic products). Drawing from the theoretical bases of partition priming and mental accounting, this research found support from 4 experiments that (a) a decision maker's commitment to a failing course of action is exaggerated when the escalation options are partitioned into multiple suboptions, whereas such commitment is reduced when the alternative options are portioned into suboptions, and (b) these partitioning effects are mediated by the subjective utility, including subjective values and probability, of the escalation option.

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