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Title:Dilemmas Within Decisions to Recommit Resources to a Course of Action: An Investigation of the Escalation Phenomenon
Author(s):Bowen, Michael George
Department / Program:Business Administration
Discipline:Business Administration
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Business Administration, Management
Abstract:The escalation phenomenon refers to situations in which decision makers recommit resources to a previously chosen failed or failing course of action in order to justify prior investments (Staw, 1976, 1981; Brockner & Rubin, 1985). Arguing from the perspective that the literature on escalating commitment may not have investigated truly failed courses of action, it is suggested that the observed"escalation" in those studies might be more parsimoniously explained as a function of the degree of equivocality of the decision context. Accordingly, research was designed to focus on two key elements in the creation or reduction of equivocality: the predictability of feedback pattern, and, the existence (or not) of decision criteria. The following question, therefore, was the focus of this research: What are the effects of equivocality of feedback and a set of decision outcome standards on the recommitment of resources to a course of action?
A fourteen cell experimental design was constructed to examine the research question. The manipulations, given in the context of an investment task, included "commitment to the course of action", "feedback equivocality", the existence or non-existence of a set of decision standards, varied (high or low) commitment to a set of decision standards, and the "individual" or "institutional" context for the investment behavior.
Analyses of data from 208 student subjects indicated that "feedback equivocality" and "decision criteria" are associated with reinvestment amounts. That is, decision makers who perceive the situation as being more unequivocal than equivocal, and also negative, will tend to reinvest less in a course of action than will decision makers who perceive that the situation is more equivocal. Those decision makers who perceive the situation as unequivocal and negative will terminate investment in a course of action. Further, the existence of a set of decision criteria does seem to reduce reinvestment in a course of action when feedback is perceived to indicate that performance is below the standard.
The results suggest that the challenge to both researchers and managers, therefore, may be to better understand ill-structured dilemmas and to find better ways to optimize opportunities for attaining desirable outcomes.
Issue Date:1987
Description:200 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1987.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8711774
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-15
Date Deposited:1987

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