Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Commitment bias

Commitment bias:
What motivates escalation of commitment even it does not lead to desirable outcomes?


Commitment Bias, also known as the Escalation of Commitment, is the continued commitment to past behaviors or actions, especially those which are exhibited publicly, even when they do not have positive benefits or desirable outcomes (Sleesman, D. J., Lennard, A. C., McNamara, G., & Conlon, D. E., 2018). While it can be difficult to personally identify when Commitment Bias is occurring, it can affect many areas of life and can negatively impact both the physical and psychological well-being of a person who experiences it.

Commitment BiasEdit

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What is the problem?Edit

Commitment Bias can be problematic in that a person would continue harmful or undesirable behaviours due to concern of public opinion or biased attitudes rather than an actual want to continue with the behaviour, regardless of benefits.[factual?]

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Why is it important?Edit

Commitment Bias is important in order to identify a real want to continue with a behaviour or commitment rather than fear of public opinion, letting someone down, or losing time spent on a venture even if there are no rewards for doing so.

Case study Example:Edit

A person who announces to their friendship group that they are going to the gym several times a week to lose weight, would continue to go to the gym even if they don't want to go or are becoming unwell doing so.

Social and Behavioural PerspectiveEdit

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Investment Model of CommitmentEdit

The Investment Model of Commitment explains that a persons[grammar?] level of commitment in a relationship is determined by their satisfaction in the relationship, their perceived quality of alternatives, and the size of investment they have made to the relationship (Back, I. H., 2010) . This can be an example of Commitment Bias, in circumstances where a person would continue a failing relationship if they felt they had pertained to be publicly satisfied in their relationship, if their attitudes towards seeking another relationship are impacted by the perceived public or personal backlash they may face from leaving the relationship, and if they deem the investment they have already made in the relationship to be too large to walk away from (Tran, P., Judge, M., & Kashima, Y., 2019)[Rewrite to improve clarity].


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Self-Justification TheoryEdit

Self-Justification Theory describes where a person has the psychological discomfort of cognitive dissonance when a perceived good task or venture is garnering negative feedback or outcomes. It drives the need for escalation of commitment, as it continues a persons[grammar?] engagement with a failing task as their belief is maintained that they will eventually receive the positive benefits of the task (Steinkühler, D., Mahlendorf, M. D., & Brettel, M., 2014) (Schultze, T., Pfeiffer, F., & Schulz-Hardt, S., 2012).

Motivated Reasoning TheoryEdit

Motivated Reasoning Theory explains that a person will be motivated to pursue an endeavor if they believe that the outcomes will be positive, and form an opinion on the action regardless of whether they have an actual want to pursue the action. Considering that people have a tendency to be biased towards their own beliefs, this affects Commitment Bias as when the perceived versus the actual benefits of an action are left unchallenged, continued commitment to past behaviours occurs (Carpenter, C. J., 2019).

Sunk Cost FallacyEdit

Sunk Cost Fallacy is the tendency to refuse to cut losses or cease involvement with a behaviour after what is deemed to be a sizeable investment is put into the action or behaviour (see Figure 1.). The imagined future rewards of the behaviour or investment outweigh the real losses a person is experiencing from the continuation of the venture (Feldman, G., & Wong, K. F. E., 2018).

    Figure 1. Diagram detailing Sunk Cost Fallacy.

How to Eliminate Commitment BiasEdit

In order to eliminate Commitment Bias, a person must recognise that consistency is not always the key to success, and there will be times when they must leave commitments that no longer serve them. A positive outlook on starting over with any type of commitment should be adopted. Endings of commitments should be celebrated and not feared or thought of as a personal failing.

  • Recognising consistency is not always key
  • Making starting over possible
  • Celebrating endings



Commitment Bias can be a negative process where a person stays committed to an action or behaviour that no longer or never served them positively. In order to recognise that a person is experiencing Commitment Bias, they must assess their own biases towards the action they are engaging in, and evaluate whether the action is bringing the desired benefits. Following the elimination process, can support a positive and realistic evaluation and outlook on the commitments a person or group is wanting to make, and allow for a shameless exit from behaviours and projects that are no longer or were never assisting a person[grammar?][Rewrite to improve clarity].

See alsoEdit


Back, I. H. (2010). Commitment bias: mistaken partner selection or ancient wisdom?. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(1), 22-28.

Carpenter, C. J. (2019). Cognitive dissonance, ego-involvement, and motivated reasoning. Annals of the International Communication Association, 43(1), 1-23.

Feldman, G., & Wong, K. F. E. (2018). When action-inaction framing leads to higher escalation of commitment: A new inaction-effect perspective on the sunk-cost fallacy. Psychological science, 29(4), 537-548.

Lee, J. S., Keil, M., & Wong, K. F. E. (2018). Does a tired mind help avoid a decision bias? The effect of ego depletion on escalation of commitment. Applied Psychology, 67(1), 171-185.

Schultze, T., Pfeiffer, F., & Schulz-Hardt, S. (2012). Biased information processing in the escalation paradigm: Information search and information evaluation as potential mediators of escalating commitment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(1), 16.

Sleesman, D. J., Lennard, A. C., McNamara, G., & Conlon, D. E. (2018). Putting escalation of commitment in context: A multilevel review and analysis. Academy of Management Annals, 12(1), 178-207.

Steinkühler, D., Mahlendorf, M. D., & Brettel, M. (2014). How self-justification indirectly drives escalation of commitment. Schmalenbach Business Review, 66(2), 191-222.

Tran, P., Judge, M., & Kashima, Y. (2019). Commitment in relationships: An updated meta‐analysis of the investment model. Personal Relationships, 26(1), 158-180.

External linksEdit

TEDEd: Decision Making Deconstructed - Understanding the Role of Bias