Do you hesitate to walk away from a toxic business relationship? Or feel compelled to stay in a lackluster friendship? A new study published in Psychological Science shows that meditation can be an ideal tool in helping you decide when to cut your losses.
When faced with a decision, just 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help us avoid the “sunk-cost” bias — a tendency to stand by something in which we’ve invested time, money, or effort. The finding comes from the study by Andrew Hafenbrack and assistant professor of organizational behavior Zoe Kinias of the international graduate business school INSEAD, and Sigal Barsade, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania.
“People don’t want to feel that their initial investment was a loss. Ironically, this often causes people to waste more resources in an attempt to break even,” says Hafenbrack. “Mindfulness roots people in the present moment, and our research suggests that it may help people make better decisions based on the best information they have in the present.”
In one experiment, participants were asked to decide whether to spend $10,000 on office equipment that would significantly improve the profits of a company — even though they had just shelled out $200,000 for an inferior version of the same equipment. Of the group that practiced focused-breathing meditation for 15 minutes, 78 percent resisted the sunk-cost bias and opted to buy the new equipment. Only 44 percent of the group that didn’t meditate decided to make the purchase.
Meditation can help those grappling with comparable decisions, Hafenbrack says, “whether it’s deciding to sell a stock that has fallen in value, continue a relationship with someone unexpectedly difficult, or continue eating a large portion of food despite being full.”
This article originally appeared as “Making a Mindful Decision” in the July/August 2014 issue of Experience Life.