Sunk Cost Fallacy

Are some teachers committing the sunk cost fallacy?

I think we all have.

Well, we all have at an eat as much as you like buffet for £9.95 because we want to “get our money’s worth”. Some other scenarios can be found here.

The sunk cost fallacy is when we continue with a behaviour as a result of previously invested resources – those being time, money or effort. The initial investment keeps you going – a sunk cost is a cost that has already been paid for and cannot be recovered in any way.

Even if the costs outweigh the benefits then the inconvenience, time or money (the extra costs incurred) are held in a sort of different mental account.

When we pursue a reward, we are pretty sensitive about it.

There can be a tendency in education to commit the sunk cost fallacy especially when it comes to continuing investing in a failing decision, e.g. a piece of technology or a fancy scheme of work that is not all that.

Schools have long thrown good money after bad. For example, a school buys into something like a Learning Styles programme (VAK) and then come to learn that the evidence doesn’t support it but they continue with it anyway because the investment can’t be clawed back. You don’t get your money back in education.

Interestingly, and we see it in schools, “people will continue to stick with something they don’t like even when it’s the result of someone else’s investment” (Olivola, 2018).


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