Default EffectOpen Access

Default Effect

We tend to accept the option pre-chosen for us

As we’re unlikely to deviate from default options presented to us, our decisions can be greatly dictated by the system’s creators.

Johnson, E. J.; Goldstein, D. (2003). Medicine: Do Defaults Save Lives? Science 302 (5649): 1338–1339.

The study

Setup

161 people were told that they’d just moved to a new US state and that here, the default was (or wasn’t) to be an organ donor. They were then asked to accept or change this donation status.

Results

Results showed that only 42% donated when the default was to opt out, but 82% when defaulted to opt in.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

Defaults are powerful. They’re chosen because consumers take mental shortcuts (especially when tired) and because there’s implied trust that they’re the ‘right’ choice. Defaults also act as a reference point against better or worse options. (Dinner et al., 2011). 

Takeaway image

Defaults can be set around anything: from the standard package you offer to new subscribers, to the pre-set top-up amount for your mobile wallet, to whether each order of pizza should come with salad. Each default can dramatically affect conversion levels and behavior.

Takeaway image

Get the balance. Ensure your defaults feel natural and in line with consumer aspirations. The more extreme the default you set (i.e. defaulting to the most expensive option), the more effort consumers will expend weighing up the cognitive / emotional costs of not choosing the default, impacting their experience and reducing overall trust.

Takeaway image
Takeaway image
Default Effect

Default Effect

We tend to accept the option pre-chosen for us

As we’re unlikely to deviate from default options presented to us, our decisions can be greatly dictated by the system’s creators.

The study

Setup

161 people were told that they’d just moved to a new US state and that here, the default was (or wasn’t) to be an organ donor. They were then asked to accept or change this donation status.

Results

Results showed that only 42% donated when the default was to opt out, but 82% when defaulted to opt in.

study graph
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We don’t like uncertainty and generally stick to what we know

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Risk Aversion
We don’t like uncertainty and generally stick to what we know
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