The Sunk Cost Effect

This cartoon’s pretty brilliant.

According to, the sunk cost effect is the tendency for humans to continue investing in something that clearly isn’t working. This tendency is due to time/effort/money already invested in the endeavor at hand. In the cartoon to the right, the sunk cost effect is shown by the dog’s irrational behavior to follow through with further digging even after not finding his bone after digging a bit.

This behavioral quirk is quite popular in the investing field. Instead of cutting losses, investors have an inclination to hold onto shares of a company after the shares fall in value, in hopes that the value would increase. These investors are reluctant to admit that they’ve made a bad investment and would prefer to hold onto those shares instead of reinvesting in another company.

To provide another example: I’ve recently been debating about switching my paid music streaming subscription service from Spotify Premium to Amazon Music Unlimited. Being that I’m an Amazon Prime member, my Amazon Music Unlimited subscription would cost $7.99 per month. In my current Spotify Premium plan, I’m dishing out $9.99 per month. If following rational economic theory, I would switch my subscription over to Amazon because… well, it just makes sense financially! However, in being the “irrational” consumer that I am, I haven’t switched over due to the fact that I keep thinking about all the time I’ve invested in creating my Spotify playlists - a clear case of the sunk cost effect.