2009: Bess Puvathingal

Temple University

In 2006, Bess began her doctorate in social psychology under the supervision of Dr. Donald A. Hantula at Temple University. Her research uses a behavioral economic paradigm to explore decision making under conditions of uncertainty. She studies escalation of commitment, defined as the re-commitment of resources to a failing course of action. Her master’s work at Temple extended the escalation literature by exploring the interaction between equivocality (i.e., random, unpredictable feedback) and sunk cost on escalation decisions. She used a temporal analysis to clarify when and to what extent equivocality and sunk cost influence behavior, and to what extent those behaviors are actually “irrational.” As an application of her behavioral economic research, Bess is particularly interested in political decision making processes framed as escalation decisions. One line of research examined escalation theory as it applies to international conflict situations, including a case study of the Iraq War. Bess would like to thank the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis for selecting her as a recipient of the Master’s Thesis Grant and for their generous support of graduate research.


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