Behavioral Diagnostics Toolkit

Back to Toolkit


Sunk Costs

Going all in. This occurs when the cumulative prior investment in an initiative irrationally encourages a person or group to make decisions they might not have made in the absence of that investment.

Status Quo/ Inertia

Tigers wouldn’t change their stripes, even if they could. We prefer things to stay the same, or change as little as possible. We tend not to change an established behavior unless the incentive to change is very compelling. There are likely many underlying mechanisms, including inertia, laziness, or perception that the default option is being endorsed by an authority or social majority.

Irrational Escalation

In for a penny, in for a pound. Occurs when we justify increased investment in a decision based solely on prior commitment, underweighting the actual value of the decision’s outcome. The choices we have already made constrain future choices.

Implementation Intentions

I say what I mean and I mean what I say. We are more likely to act in a way that is consistent with our commitments to goals when we specify when and how we intend to do so. While a goal intention describes what we want, an implementation intention captures how we will go about achieving it.

Illusion of Progress

I think I can; I think I can! The idea that we work harder to achieve goals as we come closer to achieving them. For example, receiving a loyalty card from a cafe that gives us one free coffee after 10 visits is less motivating than a card that gives one free coffee after 12 visits but with 2 visits given as a free bonus.

Ikea Effect

DIY is the best! We tend to value items more after taking part in their creation.

Endowment Effect

Mom, look what I made! The idea that we prefer the things we already have and we can develop preferences for things towards which we are indifferent, simply through the act of taking possession of them. Once something is ours, it inherently (and irrationally) gains value, and becomes something we do not want to lose.

Cognitive Depletion

My brain hurts. This concept presumes that intellectual energy is a finite personal resource, and describes a state in which someone has exhausted their personal supply. This state can lead to reduced proficiency in decision making tasks, impulse-control, pro-social behavior, and many other tasks.

Choice Overload

More isn't always better. We can become overwhelmed by the number of options that we face; this often results in making suboptimal choices, or no choice at all.