Drawing on the motivated cognition literature, we examine how self-affirmation processes influence self-justification needs and escalation decisions. Study 1 found that individuals with a larger pool of affirmational resources (high self-esteem) reduced their escalation compared to those with fewer affirmational resources (low self-esteem). Study 2 extended these findings by demonstrating that individuals also de-escalated their commitments when they were provided an opportunity to affirm on an important value. Finally, Study 3 found that affirming on traits that were of low relevance (e.g., creativity) to an initial decision reduced escalation, but affirming on decision-relevant traits (e.g., decision-making ability) ironically increased escalation. Across three studies, using three instantiations of self-affirmations and two measures of escalation, the results highlight the potential benefits and costs of using self-affirmation as a vehicle to de-escalate commitment.

N. Sivanathan, Daniel Molden, Adam Galinsky, and G. Ku
Journal Article
Publication Date
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes

Full Citation

Sivanathan, N., Daniel Molden, Adam Galinsky, and G. Ku
. “The promise and peril of self-affirmation in de-escalation of commitment.”
Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
, (September 01, 2008):