We recently welcomed a puppy into our home and it has required a bigger adaptation than we anticipated. A few nights ago, while recalling the extent of the freedom I had before the Puppy Era, I asked myself some questions. “Was it a mistake? If I could go back in time would I make the same choice? Was it an option to re-home the puppy? Did I even want to do that?”
The answer I decided upon was “No”. Despite the unexpected changes and the mild curtailment of freedom, I still believe the upside outweighs the downside. For example, I now have a writing partner who helps me come up with ideas, and someone to playfight with of an afternoon.
But soon after I’d settled these questions the sunk cost fallacy came to mind. Was I answering the above questions that way simply because I wanted to preserve the narrative of my past decisions? Do I value the presence of our four-legged friend simply because I’ve invested in her presence in our home?
This path of thought also led me to an even more uncomfortable question. Imagine someone you know who has had children. Now imagine asking them the following: “Do you regret having kids?” Worst case, they feel affronted and you don’t get a Christmas card. Best case, they consider your question and answer in the negative. “Of course not.”
See, what I am wondering is whether children and pets represent the prime example of the sunk cost fallacy? If past investments of the material and emotional kind taint how we think about the present and future value of a thing, then isn’t the “love” we feel for children and pets the thing most likely to be affected by the sunk cost fallacy?
It’s a difficult question to ask, but it’s worth it. Do we love our children and our animal friends honestly and independently of our decision to have them in our life? Or do we “love” them because the human need for narrative consistency demands we perceive them as worthy investments and the consequence of well-made decisions?