Once we invest time, money, or effort into something, we have a hard time moving on. For example, a study found that customers who paid more for season theater tickets also attended more plays (likely because of their higher sunk cost). While sunk cost can sometimes lead us to make poor choices—like sit through a bad movie, or continue on a career path we dislike—some researchers argue it’s also a helpful evolutionary trait, encouraging us to pursue things that are valuable even if we don’t remember our original motivation.
Choice can be empowering, but our ability to manage choice is also limited. If you’re an expert on a topic or have a clear preference for a product, options are great—but if you’re faced with too many similar options, making a decision becomes pretty tough. For example, one study found that customers were 10 times more likely to purchase a jar of jam if they had six options rather than 24.