Why We Stay When We Know We Should Leave

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We’ve all found ourselves in bad situations, and chosen not to get out. On a personal level, those situations might be a bad jobs or unfulfilling relationships. On a bigger level, they might be international conflicts or government cover-ups. But regardless of scope, one question persists: Why is it that we so often stay, and for so long? To quote Kenny Rogers: Why don’t we know when to walk away, or for that matter, know when to run?

Turns out there’s a reason, and that reason has a name. It’s called “the sunk cost fallacy.”

Daniel Molden is an associate professor of social psychology at Northwestern University who specializes in motivated judgment decision making, and he knows a lot about why we stay when it's not in our best interest.