Inaction Inertia: Foregoing Future Benefits as a Result of an Initial Failure to Act

Orit E. Tykocinski, Thane S. Pittman, Erin E. Tuttle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The circumstances under which initial inaction tends to persist were studied. Inaction inertia occurs when bypassing an initial action opportunity decreases the likelihood that subsequent similar action opportunities will be taken. The authors studied the case in which an initial attractive action opportunity, which is not taken, is followed by another positive but somewhat less attractive action opportunity. In 6 experiments, participants were less likely to take the second action when the discrepancy in attractiveness between the initial and final action opportunities was relatively large, compared with small-discrepancy participants or control participants, who were offered only the second opportunity. This finding was obtained using both a scenario methodology and an actual experimental situation. Possible explanations for inaction inertia based on perceptual contrast, dissonance, self-perception, or commitment theories were tested but were not clearly supported. Experiment 6, however, indicated that framing the initial inaction as a loss plays an important mediating role in producing inaction inertia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)793-803
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Inaction Inertia: Foregoing Future Benefits as a Result of an Initial Failure to Act'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this