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Even when it’s not the logical choice, people often continue investing in things (think: toxic friendships or shoes that have never seen the light of day) that they’ve spent lots of time or energy pursuing. This psychological tendency is known as the sunk cost bias.
People may give in to the sunk cost bias because they value their hard work or they don’t want to be wasteful, says David Jarmolowicz, Ph.D., an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
If you have lots of self-control you’re more likely to fall prey to it, he adds. This might be because you put more emphasis on future value (like potentially wearing those shoes) than immediate consequences (like clearing the space in your closet).
THE BOTTOM LINE
To overcome the trap, answer this question before making a decision about something completely elective: Are you continuing to invest in it because you want to or because you feel obligated to? If the second option rings true, it’s time to ditch the pursuit and move on.