Sunk cost sensitivity during change-of-mind decisions is informed by both the spent and remaining costs

A. David Redish, Samantha V. Abram, Paul J Cunningham, Anneke A Duin, Romain Durand-de Cuttoli, Rebecca A Kazinka, Adrina Kocharian, Angus MacDonald, Brandy Schmidt, Neil Schmitzer-Torbert, Mark J Thomas, Brian M Sweis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sunk cost sensitivity describes escalating decision commitment with increased spent resources. On neuroeconomic foraging tasks, mice, rats, and humans show similar escalations from sunk costs while quitting an ongoing countdown to reward. In a new analysis taken across computationally parallel foraging tasks across species and laboratories, we find that these behaviors primarily occur on choices that are economically inconsistent with the subject’s other choices, and that they reflect not only the time spent, but also the time remaining, suggesting that these are change-of-mind re-evaluation processes. Using a recently proposed change-of-mind drift-diffusion model, we find that the sunk cost sensitivity in this model arises from decision-processes that directly take into account the time spent (costs sunk). Applying these new insights to experimental data, we find that sensitivity to sunk costs during re-evaluation decisions depends on the information provided to the subject about the time spent and the time remaining.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1337
JournalCommunications biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Geoff Diehl for the use of the additional data he collected. We thank Torben Ott and Adam Kepecs for continued discussions on these issues. We thank Chris Heinz for discussion related to these issues. Funding: R01 MH080318, R01 MH112688 (ADR), University of Minnesota Johnston Chair in Neuroscience (ADR), Department of Veterans Affairs CX002355 (SVA), F32 DA038392, Diversity supplement NIDA DA030672S1, funding from the Society for Neuroscience Scholars Program (BJS), T32 DA007234 (PJC), F30 MH124404 (AK), L40MH127601, R01MH051399-31S1 (BMS).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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