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The promise and peril of self-affirmation in de-escalating commitment


Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Sivanathan N;Molden D;Galinsky A;Ku G

Publication Year



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.


Escalation of commitment; Self-justification; Self-affirmation; Motivated-cognition

Available on ECCH


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