The Einstellung effect, mental rigidity and decision-making in startup accelerators


  • Lisete Barlach School of Economics, Administration and Account, University of São Paulo
  • Guilherme Ary Plonski Department of Business, University of São Paulo



Decision-making, Cognitive biases, Startups, Innovative projects, Einstellung effect, Mental rigidity


Purpose – This paper aims to investigate the decision-making on new ventures of eight directors or
managers of Brazilian accelerators, aiming to understand if the Einstellung effect – mental rigidity – operates
during the judgment of new ventures to accelerate.
Design/methodology/approach – Through a quasi-experiment design, the study was conducted with
directors or managers of Brazilian accelerators, who were separately interviewed and responded to a
psychological test, previously consented, as well as to a simulated decision-making questionnaire.
Findings – The selection process, with the criteria for decision-making, functions as a “template” for the
recognition of potentially successful companies and is, indeed, subject to various cognitive biases, among
which, the Einstellung effect, characteristic of mental rigidity.
Research limitations/implications – The main contribution of the present study is to identify the
cognitive mechanisms, which can negatively affect the evaluation of innovative projects and propose ways
that can counteract or mitigate them.
Originality/value – The psychological approach to decision-making, usually studied in chess game
context or problem-solving, was applied to a relatively unexplored field that is startups to accelerate. Its
originality remains at the interdisciplinary approach, combining knowledge from psychology, decisionmaking and entrepreneurship


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The Einstellung effect, mental rigidity and decision-making in startup accelerators. (2021). INMR - Innovation & Management Review, 18(03), 276-291.