Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Executive Doctorate in Business (EDB)

Department

Business

First Advisor

Mark Keil

Second Advisor

Lars Mathiassen

Third Advisor

Steve Olson

Abstract

Escalation of commitment is the voluntary continuation of investing resources into what appears to be a failing course of action whose outcome is uncertain. Investigation into the escalation of commitment phenomenon is important to organizations because such behavior could result in grave economic loss. This research investigates two cognitive biases that we posit lead to IT escalation of commitment, namely, attribution bias and overconfidence in an escalation decision, as well as desire to rectify past outcomes (DRPO) for its potential role as a mediator. To test our research model, 160 IT managers participated in a web-based role-playing experiment. Attribution was manipulated at two levels (internal and external), creating two treatment conditions. We posited that the participants assigned to the internal attribution condition would escalate their commitment to the failing IT project to a greater extent than participants assigned to the external attribution condition; that individuals that have a high, versus low, level of overconfidence would have a greater tendency to escalate; and that DRPO would mediate the effects of attribution and overconfidence on escalation of commitment. Attribution bias was significant at the .1 level, but in the opposite direction of what was hypothesized; overconfidence showed a significant main effect on escalation. The effect of attribution bias on escalation was significantly mediated by DRPO, but the effect of overconfidence on escalation was not mediated by DRPO. Implications of these findings for both research and practice are discussed.

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