First Evidence for “The Backup Plan Paradox”
This research is a first test of the backup plan paradox. We hypothesized that investing in a backup plan may facilitate the conditions that it was developed to address: Plan A’s insufficiency. Five studies provide initial, primarily correlative support for the undermining effect of investing in a backup plan. Study 1 (n= 160) demonstrated that the more participants perceived they had invested in developing a backup plan (preparing a “crib sheet”), the more likely they were to use it, although greater investments were unrelated to backup plan utility. Studies 2–4 used a simulated negotiation task. Study 2 (n = 247) demonstrated that when goal-relevant resources are limited, investing in developing backup plans and perceiving them as highly instrumental can decrease goal performance through the indirect effect of increased means replacing. Study 3 (n = 248) replicated this effect when goal-relevant resources were plentiful. Study 4 (n = 204) used an experimental variant of the simulated negotiation task and demonstrated that simply having a backup plan is not detrimental, but perceiving backup plans to be highly instrumental decreased goal performance, again through the indirect effect of increased means replacing. Study 5 (n = 160) replicated findings from Studies 1–4 using a lab-based motor task (throwing a ball). Together, these results provide first evidence that backup plans can introduce costs that may jeopardize goal performance.