You are using an outdated browser. For a faster, safer browsing experience, upgrade for free today.


Escalation of Commitment

Book One: Breaking Point

There are those of us who have a talent for making difficult situations worse, to escalate matters without regard to unintended consequences.

Real world examples abound. Right now, Putin threatens to escalate to nuclear war if NATO and America continue to help Ukraine. Trump and fellow conspiracy-espousing cronies escalate lies of a rigged election, which in turn escalates into a coup and bloody attacks on the U.S. Capitol.

But even small occurrences can escalate: A disagreement between spouses escalates into threats of divorce. Playing momentum stocks and doubling down as the losses mount escalates into financial ruin. Parents willing to do anything for their kids escalates into the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal.

This behavior is called “escalation of commitment” (commonly referred to as "EOC"): making bad situations worse—much worse.

Our language is filled with EOC-type expressions: Overreacting, pouring gasoline on a fire, throwing good money after bad, spiraling out of control, crossing the line, going too far . . . all descriptives implying our lemming-like compulsion for "going over the edge." Despite reason and common sense telling us to cut our losses, to get out while we can, something impels us to push our luck and more aggressively continue down the same course.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be this way. EOC can be checked. And we can even stop the other guy from ratcheting up the tension. 

"Breaking Point" offers a detailed look at why we often get swallowed up in EOC scenarios and how we can avoid them. By understanding specific EOC motivations, what psychologists call "biases," and learning effective strategies to diminish their effects, better decision-making can result. Illustrated with many true-life examples and case studies, this book is a must—from world leaders to fifth graders looking to enhance their decision-making capacities in every area of their life.

This advice/self-help book is intended for the general public; it's based on my doctoral thesis that examined what is referred to as "escalation of commitment"—how and why some of us make bad situations worse, sometimes much worse—and how to stop that behavior.

Here are some books similar to EOC:

* "The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)" by Seth Godin
* "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness" by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
* "Irrational Exuberance" by Robert J. Shiller
* "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely
* "Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour" by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman
* "Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
* "How to Be Right: … in a World Gone Wrong" by James O'Brien

* "Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move" by Andy


Paperback Kindle Hardcover Audiobook