Sunk Cost Effect in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Junya Fujino
  • Shisei Tei
  • Takashi Itahashi
  • Yuta Aoki
  • Haruhisa Ohta
  • Chieko Kanai
  • Manabu Kubota
  • Ryu-ichiro Hashimoto
  • Motoaki Nakamura
  • Nobumasa Kato
  • Hidehiko TakahashiEmail author
Original Paper


The sunk cost effect, an interesting and well-known decision bias, is pervasive in real life and has been studied in various disciplines. In this study, we modified a task exemplifying the sunk cost effect and used it to evaluate this behavior in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The control group exhibited a typical sunk cost effect in our task. We found that the sunk cost effect was lower in the ASD group than in the control group. The results agree with previous evidence of reduced sensitivity to context stimuli in individuals with ASD and extend this finding to the context of the sunk cost effect. Our findings are useful in addressing the practical implications on their socioeconomic behavior.


Autism spectrum disorder Decision making Sunk cost effect Behavioral economics 



The authors wish to extend their gratitude to the research team of the Medical Institute of Developmental Disabilities Research at Showa University for their assistance in data acquisition. This work was supported by grants-in-aid for scientific research A (24243061), C (17K10326), Young Scientists B (17K16398), and on Innovative Areas (23120009, 16H06572), from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT); SENSHIN Medical Research Foundation; and Takeda Science Foundation. A part of this study is the result of the Strategic Research Program for Brain Sciences by agency for medical research and development (JP18dm0107151), “Research and development of technology for enhancing functional recovery of elderly and disabled people based on non-invasive brain imaging and robotic assistive devices”, the Commissioned Research of National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, JAPAN, and the Joint Usage/Research Program of Medical Institute of Developmental Disabilities Research, Showa University. These agencies had no further role in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Author Contributions

JF, ST, TI, YA, HO, RH, MN, NK, and HT designed research; JF, ST, TI, and CK participated in the data acquisition; JF, YA HO, CK, MK, MN, and NK were in charge of the clinical assessment. JF, and ST analyzed data; TI, YA HO, CK, MK, RH, MN, NK, and HT helped with interpretation of data. JF, ST, TI, YA, HO, CK, MK, RH, MN, NK, and HT wrote the paper. All authors have made intellectual contribution to the work and approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

10803_2018_3679_MOESM1_ESM.docx (54 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 53 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Junya Fujino
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shisei Tei
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Takashi Itahashi
    • 1
  • Yuta Aoki
    • 1
  • Haruhisa Ohta
    • 1
    • 5
  • Chieko Kanai
    • 1
  • Manabu Kubota
    • 1
    • 2
    • 6
  • Ryu-ichiro Hashimoto
    • 1
    • 7
  • Motoaki Nakamura
    • 1
    • 8
  • Nobumasa Kato
    • 1
  • Hidehiko Takahashi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Medical Institute of Developmental Disabilities ResearchShowa UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Graduate School of MedicineKyoto UniversityKyotoJapan
  3. 3.Institute of Applied Brain SciencesWaseda UniversityTokorozawaJapan
  4. 4.School of Human and Social SciencesTokyo International UniversityKawagoeJapan
  5. 5.Department of Psychiatry, School of MedicineShowa UniversityTokyoJapan
  6. 6.Department of Functional Brain Imaging Research, National Institute of Radiological SciencesNational Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and TechnologyChibaJapan
  7. 7.Department of Language Sciences, Graduate School of HumanitiesTokyo Metropolitan UniversityTokyoJapan
  8. 8.Kanagawa Psychiatric CenterYokohamaJapan

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