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Alternative Title

Integration of responsibility, counterfactual thinking and hindsight bias

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Project




Hindsight bias (Psychology), Decision making, Commitment (Psychology), Social psychology, Escalation of commitment, Hindsight bias


It has been suspected that escalation of commitment, a phenomenon that describes decision makers’ tendency of persisting in a failing course of action, might be exaggerated by non-decision makers’ hindsight bias (Kong, 2013). In this study subjects were assigned either a role of actor or observer and participated in a decision making process of escalation of commitment. Comparisons of post hoc judgments--hindsight bias and counterfactual thinking-- between actors and observers revealed that observers’ perception of the escalated project was in the same direction as the known outcome, whereas actors’ perception was not affected by the outcome. Moreover, when the given outcome was negative, observers generated more counterfactual thoughts, defined as mentally undoing past actions, than actors. This suggests that observers tend to make causal inferences that are associated with the decision maker while actors are inclined to seek causes that are not self-focused. Implications of the divergence in post hoc judgment of escalation of commitment are discussed.




45 pages : color illustrations. Honors project, Smith College, 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 38-45)