When persistence doesn't pay

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Science  13 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6398, pp. 124-125
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau3144

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People routinely make bad decisions. Far from being random, however, these bad decisions are often predictable, occurring reliably in specific contexts (13). One set of such suboptimal decisions are cognitive biases, wherein individuals make decisions that predictably violate rationality or their own best interests without a logical reason for doing so (4). One such bias is the sunk cost bias, in which individuals invest more time or resources in an outcome than it is worth given the potential gain, presumably because they focus on hindsight evaluation of irrecoverable costs rather than prospective gains (5). On page 178 of this issue, Sweis et al. (6) report a clever experiment demonstrating the sunk cost bias in rats, mice, and humans. The findings also provide insight into why results from previous studies have been so variable.