Learning Lessons From Sunk Costs

Brian H. Bornstein, Gretchen B. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Study participants rated the quality of several arguments for continuing an original plan in sunk cost situations in order to (a) avoid wasting resources, (b) learn to make better decisions, (c) punish poor decision making, and (d) appear consistent. The lesson-learning argument was perceived as most appropriate when adult teachers taught lessons to others, the original decision was carelessly made, or if it consumed comparatively more resources. Ratings of the lesson-learning argument were higher for teacher-learner than for adult-alone situations, regardless of whether the learner was a child or an adult. The implications for improving decision making and judging whether the sunk cost effect is a bias are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-269
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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