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Science. 2018 Jul 13;361(6398):178-181. doi: 10.1126/science.aar8644.

Sensitivity to "sunk costs" in mice, rats, and humans.

Author information

1
Graduate Program in Neuroscience and Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
2
Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
3
Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
4
Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. redish@umn.edu.

Abstract

Sunk costs are irrecoverable investments that should not influence decisions, because decisions should be made on the basis of expected future consequences. Both human and nonhuman animals can show sensitivity to sunk costs, but reports from across species are inconsistent. In a temporal context, a sensitivity to sunk costs arises when an individual resists ending an activity, even if it seems unproductive, because of the time already invested. In two parallel foraging tasks that we designed, we found that mice, rats, and humans show similar sensitivities to sunk costs in their decision-making. Unexpectedly, sensitivity to time invested accrued only after an initial decision had been made. These findings suggest that sensitivity to temporal sunk costs lies in a vulnerability distinct from deliberation processes and that this distinction is present across species.

Comment in

PMID:
30002252
PMCID:
PMC6377599
DOI:
10.1126/science.aar8644
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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