Before going to sleep, make your agenda as specific as possible!

Then you'll have a harder time abandoning it since you already put so much effort into creating it.

Is it the sunk cost fallacy if it results in productive behavior?


1 Answer 1


Is it sunk cost fallacy if it results in productive behavior?

Whether something is a fallacy doesn't depend on behavior; it depends on the form of reasoning.

"Is it the fallacy" and "is it an application of the fallacy" are two separate questions. Your title and the text of your request are actually two DIFFERENT questions that hinge on the ideas of fallacy and bias.

The sunken cost fallacy is a persuasive, invalid form of inference. Hence if one says:

P1 I spent a lot on it.
P2 (I shouldn't consider what my future costs to continuing it are)
C Therefore, I should continue doing it (despite the costs).

One is clearly not reasoning correctly. From the WP article on sunk costs:

Even though economists argue that sunk costs are no longer relevant to future rational decisionmaking, in everyday life, people often take previous expenditures, say, on repairing a car or house into their future decisions regarding those properties.

Now enters the cognitive bias which is disposition of mind towards some particular decision making. Brains are biased towards certain forms of irrational thought such as cognitive biases. If one uses the bias of one's brain to alter one's decision making for the better, this is NOT a fallacy, but exploiting the tendency of the brain to be persuaded by the fallacy. A subtle, but important difference.

Hence, it IS an APPLICATION of the fallacy to improve decision making. This is the essence of outsmarting yourself by exploiting your own weaknesses which follows the general pattern:

I know I make irrational choices.
I know the rational conclusions.
Therefore, I'll structure the choice so I'll make irrational choices to arrive at rational conclusions.

This is a common method for altering decision making and is an example of the application of reasoning studied by psychologists, behavioral economists, and political scientists.


If victims are too sad about a sunk cost's reason to pay it again, how's their unwillingness the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

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