The de-escalation of commitment: predecisional accountability and cognitive processes


  • Author Note: Writing of this manuscript was supported in part by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation MO 722/6-1).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Klaus Moser, School of Business and Economics, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Lange Gasse 20, 90403 Nürnberg, Germany. E-mail:


Escalation of commitment describes the continuation of a course of action in spite of drawbacks and continuing insecurity of goal achievement. To prevent escalation and its associated costs, de-escalation techniques are valuable. The present study investigates predecisional accountability to an unknown audience as a de-escalation technique. In addition, the evolution of cognitive processes (reasons for persisting) during escalation is examined. As predicted, predecisional accountability has a de-escalating effect. In addition, escalation is accompanied by an increase of nonrational reasons for continuing the respective course of action, and decision makers without accountability provide more nonrational reasons for not quitting than those who are held accountable.