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J Appl Psychol. 2003 Feb;88(1):6-14.

When success breeds failure: history, hysteresis, and delayed exit decisions.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Montclair State University, USA.


The effects of feedback equivocality, information availability, and prior decision-making history on escalation and persistence were investigated. Replicating the findings of J.L. Bragger, D.H. Bragger, D.A. Hantula, and J.P. Kirnan (1998), this study found that participants receiving equivocal feedback on their decisions invested more money and invested across more opportunities; those who could purchase information invested fewer resources than did participants who did not have the opportunity to purchase information. There was an inverse linear relationship between the percentage of opportunities in which participants purchased information and the delay to exit decisions and total resources invested. Six weeks earlier, some participants took part in a more profitable investment scenario, and prior experience led to later increased investing when participants were faced with failure, even above that invested in a preceding, succeeding scenario. These results are consistent with an equivocality theory account of escalation.

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