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How do bad marketing campaigns make it to market as often as they do? Behavior science explains.

Behavioral science explains how good marketers can sometimes launch ineffective messaging campaigns and why it happens so frequently.
ImageNewristics Image06 May 2019

What is Commitment Bias?

Commitment Bias is a psychological tendency to feel tied to things we did or said in the past, even if we recognize the outcomes of doing or saying those same things would not be favorable now. This is primarily a result of our desire for consistency and wanting to appear consistent to others as well as ourselves.

The inclination to remain committed to past behaviors is especially strong when those past behaviors are made publicly known to others. This bias is closely related to the Rule of Consistency, Sunk Cost Fallacy, Escalation of Commitment, and Confirmation Bias. However, the central element distinguishing Commitment Bias is that it usually emerges in situations when a person has publicly committed to a position or decision.

Once we've committed ourselves to a position, we find it difficult to retreat or change our minds. We may even change our attitude towards the position or task to justify our choice, an effect known as cognitive dissonance. Since inconsistency feels wrong and uncomfortable, we may even change our feelings (to become more positive) towards the position or task to ensure both a consistent image and relieve feelings of uneasiness.

Commitment Bias in Action


A husband complains to his wife of feeling fatigued but says he just needs a good night’s rest. Over the next several months, his fatigue symptoms worsen but he continues to insist to his wife and family that he just hasn’t been sleeping well and it isn’t necessary to see a doctor even though he has good insurance. By refusing to retreat from a position he had publicly committed to despite new evidence, the husband demonstrated Commitment Bias.

How to Feed Commitment Bias

Commitment Bias can serve as both a positive and negative influence in our decision-making process. While tenacity and persistence are admirable qualities that can be fueled by Commitment Bias, they can also become a barrier to growth when we realize our past behaviors do not align with our current or future goals.

At times when we need an extra boost to get something done at work or school, or even for our own personal growth, we can add Commitment Bias to our toolkit. Simply make your work deadline public to the entire office or tweet you're going to quit vaping for good to all your followers. Making your commitment public can be just what you need to get it done!

How to Fight Commitment Bias

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Commitment Bias can keep you hanging onto past behaviors and plans that no longer serve you. When you need to break free from past commitments, it can help to start slowly. Pick a commitment that is less public but will enable you to grow. Write your goal down in a journal or maybe show it to a friend to keep you accountable.

If you have a big, very public, commitment that is holding you back, you may need to just rip it off! This seems terrifying, but like a band-aid, the pain will be over quickly. Pro tip: you are probably thinking about the damage to your reputation more than anyone else is. It may even go by completely unnoticed. Even if your sudden change prompts a reaction, you can have a logical and well-outlined explanation ready to defend your position and squash negative responses.