The Effects of Feedback Equivocality On Escalation of Commitment: An Empirical Investigation of Decision Dilemma Theory

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The effects of feedback equivocality on escalation of commitment were examined in a laboratory study. Subjects had multiple opportunities to allocate money to market a software product. During the initial phase, subjects received feedback that was of either low or high equivocality. Half of the subjects in each equivocality level were given a standard by which to judge the feedback. In the second phase, all subjects received negative feedback. Consistent with Bowen's (1987) decision dilemma theory, subjects who received low equivocality feedback did not escalate allocations, and subjects who received high equivocal feedback escalated allocations. The presence of a standard or goal attenuated escalation. These results are consonant with a dynamic, temporally based account of escalation and are discussed in a synthesis of the literatures in behavior analysis, economics, forecasting, and psychology.



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