What MOST people don't understand about Sunk Cost Fallacy

TL:DR | Your time spent on something doesn't mean it is worth completing, but it also doesn't mean that it is not...


4 min read
What MOST people don't understand about Sunk Cost Fallacy

Now this concept has been on my mind lately, and I wanted to touch on it. Ironically I'm like most people in that I don't use this concept like I should. The fallacy is about the time or resources spent on an endeavor.

What is the Sunk Cost Fallacy?
The Sunk Cost Fallacy describes our tendency to follow through on an endeavor if we have already invested time, effort, or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.
- https://thedecisionlab.com/biases/the-sunk-cost-fallacy

Do those resources or time really mean that much? Time is our most valued asset after all. However is it really that bad to continue onto that endeavor, even if all seems lost?

Part of why this fallacy came to mind is because of video games, and I'll use that as a major example in this post. This video helps with that idea.


Why it even matters...

A game I have been playing has been Octopath Traveler, and stay with me here. In the game there are eight characters, each with their own story (four chapters per), and then at the end they all face one final chapter if you will.

In my main playthrough I have spent literal days worth in that save file. I don't regret it because video games are my sole decompression tool, outside of maybe exercise or something like that. However in the final moments of the game you are faced with an extreme challenge, as there are final bosses in each of the character's chapter four. In this last chapter you face all eight of them AGAIN, and then at the end finally get to the final boss who has two tedious forms.

What is even worse is that if you die at any point in all 10 battles you have to start over from the start.

My point is that this game I have spent so much time into is now putting me in a position of do I really want to complete this?


How does Sunk Cost Impact you?

Now I am spending my time grinding levels, and trying to prepare for this massive final battle. That mind you I have attempted twice already, which it takes about two hours at least (I haven't even made it to the second phase of the final battle yet). Now I am stuck in this loop of do I complete this endeavor, or do I stop wasting the opportunity cost of time that I could be spending on content like this?

That is where I diverge in thinking from the majority, as the polymathic side comes into play. So many people treat jack of all trades people in this light, so for example a JOAT is someone with about a novice level of knowledge in many areas. People see that opportunity cost spent getting to that level in many areas to be not worth the time. The JOAT then see's the time spent as sunk cost, and wants to continue.

Those who feel that it isn't worth continue, then often turn into specialists and narrow down. Those who are realizing the value of diverse knowledge, then go into being generalists. I'd argue the latter is more worthwhile and unique.

If I believed in purely sunk cost I'd have gotten into a narrow path myself, and I wouldn't have diverged my knowledge base. I wouldn't be the man I am now.


Truthfully what does it matter?

Making all matters worse is that there were a couple games I got into as a teen, that I failed to complete fully. As the final bosses required an extreme amount of grinding just to beat. I thought well I put enough time in to enjoy the game, so let's not waste more time.

However that lead me to not feel the reward of completion, and left a notion of inadequacy. I feel that this boss in this game is of a similar nature, and to not let the opportunity cost of time lead me to follow the same mistake.

Who knows maybe the effort spent on this one endeavor, however trivial it may seem to the outside world; To me it is important, and that completion could lead into a snowball effect into other areas of my life.

So despite the fact that I could move on now, and live with the sunken cost of effort put into the game (I mean I did enjoy it all up to this point anyways). Instead I don't let the conceptual sunken cost fallacy to ruin my own plans. Making me give up right before I hit the gold.

The Sunk Cost Fallacy - The Decision Lab
The Sunk Cost Fallacy describes our tendency to follow through on an endeavor if we have already invested time, effort, or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.
How the Sunk Cost Fallacy Keeps You Playing Games
July 23, 2015 - Sunk cost fallacy keeps you playing games, even though you don’t want to. Learn about the drive to avoid loss instead of acquiring gain.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy Is Ruining Your Decisions. Here’s How
Forget about how much time or money you’ve invested

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