Effects of Motivation and Anonymity on Escalation to Commitment

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Title:The effects of individual differences and anonymity on commitment to decisions: preliminary evidence Author(s):Alan Monk and V. Srinivasan Rao
Source:The Journal of Social Psychology. 139.4 (Aug. 1999): p496. Document Type:Article
Abstract: 
This study examined the effects of inner-motivation, other-motivation, and anonymity on escalation to commitment, by using an extended version of Staw's financial allocation task (B. M. Staw, 1976). Participants' inner-motivation and other-motivation were measured with scales created for this study. Participants were told there would be a group discussion and that they would have to make decisions. Their escalations to commitment might have occurred in anticipation of having to justify their decisions to others. Other-motivation was correlated positively with initial commitment. Final commitment was negatively correlated with participants'inner-motivation. It is possible that once the neutral views of the others became known, the participants adjusted their commitments to reflect their inner-motivation. Anonymity did not affect commitment. Researchers have examined the reasons that decision makers remain committed or even increase their levels of commitment in escalation situations (Bazerman, Giuliano, & Appelman, 1984; Conlon & Wolf, 1980; Staw, 1976). According to Staw and Ross (1987), escalation situations are "predicaments where costs are suffered in a course of action, where there is an opportunity to withdraw or persist, and where the consequences of persistence and withdrawal are uncertain" (p. 40). Studies of escalation situations have demonstrated that higher levels of personal responsibility for a business investment decision that resulted in a financial setback were correlated with higher levels of commitment to the original course of action. However, the level of responsibility explained only approximately 20% of the variance in commitment (Bazerman et al., 1984; Staw, 1976). Evidently, there are other factors that affect escalation to commitment. We explored the effects of personality-related factors (including individuals' inner-motivation and other-motivation) and anonymity on escalation to commitment. Personality-Related Factors

Inner-motivation is the propensity to behave and justify past actions in a manner consistent with the need to maintain a self-image of competence; other-motivation is the propensity to behave and justify past actions in a manner consistent with the need to maintain an external image of competence. Internal and external justification processes form the basis of Staw's (1981) explanations of escalation behavior. We argue that the extent to which these processes are involved is a function of inner-motivation and other-motivation. Salancik (1977) suggested that commitment to a decision is a function of the publicness of the decision. Decision makers seem inclined to commit to their prior courses of action when important others are aware of their roles as initial decision makers. Conversely, it has been suggested that anonymity in decision making can lead to lower levels of commitment. However, this premise has not been examined in depth, possibly because anonymous decision making has not previously been possible in organizations; therefore, the effect of anonymity on escalation to commitment may not have been considered relevant. Recent advances in computer technology, such as the use of Group Support Systems (GSS; Dennis, George, Jessup, Nunamaker, & Vogel, 1988), have made it feasible for group members to offer anonymous suggestions and to make anonymous decisions. Because of the increasing use of GSS (DeSanctis, Snyder, & Poole, 1991; Nunamaker et al., 1989; Vogel & Mittleman, 1991) and the prominence of anonymity in GSS (Benbasat, DeSanctis, & Nault, 1993), there is a growing need to be aware of the effects of using anonymity in group decision making, including its effects on escalation to commitment. Anonymity...
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