Collaborative Partner or Opponent: How the messenger influences the deaf effect in IT projects

A.L.P. Nuijten*, Mark Keil, Harry Commandeur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Web of Science)


Prior research suggests that information technology (IT) project escalation can result from the deaf effect, a phenomenon in which decision makers fail to heed risk warnings communicated by others. Drawing inspiration from stewardship theory, we posited that when messengers carrying risk warnings about a project are seen as collaborative partners, decision makers are more likely to heed the message. Conversely, we theorized that when messengers are seen as opponents, decision makers are more likely to exhibit the deaf effect. We further posited that certain psychological factors (i.e., framing and perceived control) would moderate the effect of the messenger-recipient relationship on the deaf effect. To test these ideas, we conducted two experiments. When messengers were seen as collaborative partners, recipients assigned more relevance to the risk warning and perceived a higher risk, making them less willing to continue the project. Framing the outcomes associated with redirecting or continuing the project in terms of losses (rather than gains) weakened this effect. However, when recipients perceived a high degree of control over the project the effect was strengthened. Implications for both research and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-552
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Information Systems
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes


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