College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Fall 11-21-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jessica Choplin, PhD

Second Advisor

Ralph Erber, PhD

Third Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD



This paper explores how sunk costs increase consumers’ vulnerability to fraud and explores possible intervention strategies. Sunk cost bias occurs when individuals persist in an activity due to past investments (Arkes & Blumer, 1985). Outcome salience, framing, and alternatives can help alleviate loss aversion and persistence when costs are sunk (Stewart, Chater, Stott, & Reimers, 2003; Van Schie & Van Der Pligt, 1995). Option evaluation is influenced by an individual’s construal level (Ding & Keh, 2017; Henderson, 2013; Sun, Keh, & Lee, 2019). Construal level theory (CL) describes the impact of psychological distance on thinking– with greater distance thinking is more abstract (high CL), with less distance thinking is more concrete (low CL) (Trope & Liberman, 2010). Individuals in a high construal mindset could be more likely to consider conceptual alternatives, like not purchasing a home, while individuals in a low construal mindset could be more likely to consider pursing a different loan, if they know they have preapproval from other lenders. Five studies investigated 1) sunk costs in fraudulent scenarios 2) the influence of construal level on sunk costs, 3) the influence of construal level on the evaluation of similar or general alternative options, 4) whether the presence of alternatives alleviate persistence when costs are sunk, and 5) whether the relationship between the presence of alternatives and persistence is mediated by the perceived feasibility of exploring other options. If effective, option salience can inform consumer protection efforts.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons