Current Psychology

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 45–54 | Cite as

Sunk Cost and Commitment to Dates Arranged Online



The influence of prior, irretrievable, investment (sunk cost) on commitment to a date arranged online was investigated. Participants were recruited from an undergraduate population. There were 145 participants (86 female) with a mean age of 19.42 years. Participants took part in a computer simulation of the process of arranging a date online. Participants invested one of five amounts of sunk cost into this process. Participants were then presented with the choice of attending the date arranged online or attending a (superior) blind date. Participants chose how much time that they wanted to commit to the (inferior) date arranged online. Results revealed a significant sunk cost effect (p = 0.003). The implications of the sunk cost effect having an influence over human relationships are discussed.


Sunk cost Relationships Dating 


  1. American Psychological Association (1992). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. American Psychologist, 47, 1597–1611.Google Scholar
  2. Arkes, H. R. (1996). The psychology of waste. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 9, 213–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arkes, H. R., & Blumer, C. (1985). The psychology of sunk cost. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 124–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Åstebro, T., Jeffrey, S. A., & Adomdza, G. K. (2007). Inventor perseverance after being told to quit: The role of cognitive biases. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 20, 253–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bem, D. J. (1967). Self perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance. Psychological Review, 74, 183–200.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berger, C. R. (1987). Planning and scheming: Strategies for initiating relationships. In R. Burnett, P. McGhee, & D. Clarke (Eds.), Accounting for relationships: Social representations of interpersonal links (pp. 158–174). London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  7. Brehm, S. S. (1992). Intimate relationships. New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  8. Drummond, H. (1999). Are we any closer to the end? Escalation and the case of Taurus. International Journal of Project Management, 17, 11–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Garland, H., & Conlon, D. E. (1998). Too close to quit: The role of project completion in maintaining commitment. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 2025–2048.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garland, H., Sandefur, C. A., & Rogers, A. C. (1990). De-escalation of commitment in oil exploration: When sunk costs and negative feedback coincide. Journal of Applied Psychology, 6, 721–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Girandola, F., & Gauthier, E. (2001). Organizational decision making: effects of accountability on escalation of commitment. European Review of Applied Psychology, 51, 111–119.Google Scholar
  13. Gourville, J. T., & Soman, D. (1998). Payment depreciation: The behavioral effects of temporally separating payment from consumption. Journal of Consumer Research, 25, 160–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Green, S. K., & Sandos, P. (1983). Perceptions of male and female initiators of relationships. Sex Roles, 9, 849–852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heath, C. (1995). Escalation and de-escalation in response to sunk cost: The role of budgeting in mental accounting. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 62, 38–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Juliusson, E. Á., Karlsson, N., & Gärling, T. (2005). Weighing the past and the future in decision making. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 17, 561–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ku, G., Galinsky, A. D., & Murnigham, J. K. (2006). Starting low but ending high: A reversal of the anchoring effect in auctions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 975–986.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liersch, M. J. (2007). Testing the boundary conditions of biases resulting from heuristic processes. US Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 68, 3418.Google Scholar
  19. Moon, H. (2001). Looking forward and looking back: Integrating completion and sunk cost effects within an escalation of commitment progress decision. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 104–113.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rusbult, C. E. (1980). Commitment and satisfaction in romantic associations: A test of the investment model. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 16, 172–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Staw, B. M. (1976). Knee deep in the big muddy: A study of escalating commitment to a chosen course of action. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16, 27–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 1124–1131.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Walster, E., Walster, G. W., Piliavin, J., & Schmidt, L. (1973). Playing hard to get: Understanding an elusive phenomenon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 26, 113–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentNorth Dakota State UniversityFargoUSA

Personalised recommendations