Research Presentation: Escalation of Commitment in East versus West — The Role of Relational Self-Construal and Decision Making Context

Friday, Aug 16 to Friday, Aug 16, 2013

1:30PM to 3:00PM

Escalation of commitment occurs when decision makers continue to allocate resources to a prior decision, despite negative feedback suggesting the initial decision should be abandoned. Researchers explain escalation primarily through a self-enhancement motive, according to which we escalate to justify and rationalize our prior decisions. Since cross-cultural psychologists suggest the self-enhancement motive is weak, or even absent, in East Asian cultures, we predict lower levels of escalation in the East versus the West. At the same time, we use dynamic constructivist theory to argue that making decisions with a close other should activate the relational self-construal and generate escalation of commitment in East Asian populations.  Results across two studies demonstrate that making a decision with a friend when accompanied by a strong relational self-construal predicts escalation for Chinese but not Canadian decision makers. Implications for managers and decision makers and additional research currently underway will be discussed.
Wendi L. Adair, University of Waterloo (Ph.D., Northwestern—Kellogg),  focuses her research on negotiation and conflict management in the global marketplace. Much of her work investigates the universality of negotiation theory that has been largely developed in the West (information exchange, persuasion, decision-making biases, reciprocity, offer-counter offers) and defines cultural norms for negotiation strategies, sequences, and stages in multiple national cultures. Other areas of research include the role of context in communication, behavioral adaptation, and third culture building in cross-cultural interactions.

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