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Irrational Escalation: Definition, Examples and Effects

Definition: Irrational escalation is a phenomenon in which people continue to invest more and more resources into a situation, even when it is clear that the situation is not going to yield a positive outcome. This behavior is often driven by a desire to avoid losses or to “win” a situation, even when it is clear that the situation is not going to yield a positive outcome.


Examples: One example of irrational escalation is when a person continues to invest in a failing business venture, despite the fact that the venture is not likely to turn a profit. Another example is when a person continues to invest in a relationship that is clearly not working, despite the fact that the relationship is not likely to improve.


Effects: Irrational escalation can have a number of negative effects. It can lead to financial losses, as people continue to invest resources into a situation that is not likely to yield a positive outcome. It can also lead to emotional distress, as people continue to invest time and energy into a situation that is not likely to yield a positive outcome. Finally, irrational escalation can lead to a sense of frustration and helplessness, as people feel like they are unable to control the situation.


Do you want to expand your knowledge on this topic? Read our full in-depth article on cognitive biases.


Do you have extra 15 minutes today? Takeour fun and interactive quiz to learn which of 16 reasoning styles you use, your overall level of rationality, and what you can do now to improve your rationality skills.

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