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Study Notes

Default Bias (Behavioural Economics)

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 21 Mar 2021

What is default or status quo bias?

People prefer to carry on behaving as they have always done even when the circumstances that might influence their decisions change. Repeat choices / purchases often become automatic because default choices don’t involve much mental (cognitive) effort.

Behavioural Economics - The Default Bias

To do nothing is within the power of all men

Samuel Johnson


  • Your choice of daily breakfast cereal / razor / sandwich preference
  • Political preferences in elections e.g. preferring the status quo

Most decisions have the status quo alternative which is simply to stick to your current choice. When the status quo bias is strongly engrained in our behaviour, then it may become difficult for policy interventions - for example designed to improve health outcomes - to have a significant impact on the choices that people make. The incentive to make a change in behaviour needs to be compelling.

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