The sunk cost effect is manifested in a greater tendency to continue an endeavor once an investment in money, effort, or time has been made. Evidence that the psychological justification for this behavior is predicated on the desire not to appear wasteful is presented. In a field study, customers who had initially paid more for a season subion to a theater series attended more plays during the next 6 months, presumably because of their higher sunk cost in the season tickets. Several questionnaire studies corroborated and extended this finding. It is found that those who had incurred a sunk cost inflated their estimate of how likely a project was to succeed compared to the estimates of the same project by those who had not incurred a sunk cost. The basic sunk cost finding that people will throw good money after bad appears to be well described by prospect theory (D. Kahneman & A. Tversky, 1979, Econometrica, 47, 263–291). Only moderate support for the contention that personal involvement increases the sunk cost effect is presented. The sunk cost effect was not lessened by having taken prior courses in economics. Finally, the sunk cost effect cannot be fully subsumed under any of several social psychological theories.
Arkes, H. R., &Blumer, C. (1985). The psychology of sunk cost. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 35(1), 124-140.