Tuesday, June 20, 2006 · posted at 12:08 PM
The Requisite of Personal Responsibility

In a study of 96 business students Staw and Fox (1977) gave the subjects a choice between making an R&D investment in either an underperforming company department, or in other sections of the hypothetical company. Staw and Fox divided the participants into two groups; a low responsibility condition and a high responsibility condition. In the high responsibility condition the participants where told that they as manager had made a earlier, disappointing R&D investment. In the low responsibility condition, subjects were told that a former manager had made a previous R&D investment in the underperforming division and where given the same profit data as the other group. In both cases subjects where then ask to make a new $20 million investment. There was a significant interaction between assumed responsibility and average investment, with the high responsibility condition averaging $12.97 million and the low condition averaging $9.43 million.
        - "Sunk Cost Heuristic" on Wikipedia

Staw (1976) and colleagues (Staw and Fox, 1977; Staw and Ross, 1978) studied the tendency for college students to increase their commitments to unsuccessful courses of action in simulated tasks. That is, indications of failure may induce people to allocate more effort or resources to their current behavioral strategies rather than to adopt new behaviors. Milliken and Lant (1991) argued that "a number of forces push managers toward persistence after experiences of both success and failure" although these forces are stronger after success than after failure. The forces fostering persistence include the self-serving bias.
        - "How Organizations Learn From Success and Failure" by William H. Starbuck & Bo Hedberg.

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