Inaction inertia

M. van Putten, M. Zeelenberg, E. van Dijk, O.E. Tykocinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Inaction inertia occurs when bypassing an initial action opportunity has the effect of decreasing the likelihood that subsequent similar action opportunities will be taken. This overview of the inaction inertia literature demonstrates the impact of inaction inertia on decision making. Based on research on the causes of inaction inertia, we show that it is a multi-determined phenomenon, explained by both valuation and regret considerations. Moreover, we demonstrate how a sour grapes explanation of inaction inertia might integrate these two accounts. Furthermore, we explain when inaction inertia is most likely to occur and how it can be prevented. We conclude that the inaction inertia literature does not only add to our understanding of this intriguing phenomenon, but also contributes to related social psychological phenomena, such as the sunk cost effect, sequential decision making, decision avoidance (e.g., choice deferral, status quo bias, decisional conflict), and procrastination.
Keywords: Inaction inertia, Regret, Valuation, Sunk cost, Sequential decision making, Procrastination, Decision avoidance, Emotion, Decision making
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-159
JournalEuropean Review of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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