Prof. Dr. Falk Uebernickel

Escalation of Commitment in Information Systems Projects


Information Systems (IS) projects are pivotal in maintaining a competitive advantage and enabling innovation and value creation in the digital age. However, many IS projects fail to meet their objectives, and frequently run over budget and time. Distressed IS projects are particularly prone to escalation of commitment (EoC) - the tendency to persist with failing courses of action despite negative feedback or evidence of failure, which can result in significant financial, temporal, and reputational losses for the organizations and individuals involved. Therefore, understanding the causes, mechanisms, and remedies of EoC in IS projects is crucial for improving project outcomes and avoiding the waste of resources. This research project adopts a mixed-methods approach that combines quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as neurophysiological and behavioral measures, to investigate the cognitive and affective determining factors and processes behind EoC in IS projects.

Research Questions:

  • What are underlying cognitive and affective determining factors and processes behind EoC? 
  • How does a decision-maker’s cognition and affect change during the process of EoC?
  • Which strategies can managerial decision-makers apply to remedy the negative effects of EoC?

Expected Outcomes:

  • Conceptualization of EoC in the context of IS project distress
  • Empirical evidence for cognitive and affective determining factors behind EoC
  • Cognitive Process Model of EoC
  • Framework for de-escalation

Research Team:

  • Project Owner: Carolin Marx
  • Project Collaborators from Academia
    • Hasso Plattner Institute: Falk Uebernickel
    • Tech3Lab, HEC Montreal: Pierre-Majorique Léger
    • Behavioral Lab, University of St. Gallen: Charlotta Sirén
    • University of California, Berkeley: Don Moore

Project Period:



Best practices from managerial practice on dealing with EoC.

Thesis Topics:

At the moment, we do not have available thesis topics.

Related Publications:

Marx, C., Ampel, B., & Lazarine, B. (2021). The Role of AI Agents for De-Escalating Commitment in Digital Innovation Projects. ICIS Proceedings 2021. Proceedings of the Forty-Second International Conference on Information Systems, Austin, USA.

*Marx, C., & Uebernickel, F. (2022). How to Turn Around: Escalation of Commitment in the Context of ISD Project Distress. Proceedings of the Forty-Third International Conference on Information Systems, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Marx, C., De Paula, D., Haskamp, T., & Uebernickel, F. (2023). A Cognitive Perspective on Digital Transformation: Literature Review and Research Framework. Proceedings of the Fifty-Sixth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Lahaina, USA.

Marx, C., & Uebernickel, F. (2023a). Disentangling Emotional and Cognitive Factors of Escalation of Commitment: Evidence for a Psychophysiological Link. Proceedings of the Thirty-First European Conference on Information Systems, Kristiansand, Norway.

Marx, C., & Uebernickel, F. (2023b). Unpacking the Black Box: A Cognitive Process Model of Escalation of Commitment in IS Project Management. Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Wirtschaftsinformatik, September 2023, Paderborn, Germany.

* Best Paper in Track Award