Partitioning Default Effects: Why People Choose Not to Choose
Isaac M. Dinner
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Eric J. Johnson
Columbia Business School - Marketing
Daniel G. Goldstein
Microsoft Research New York City; London Business School
University of South Dakota - School of Business
November 28, 2010
Default options exert an influence in areas as varied as retirement program design, organ donation policy, and consumer choice. Past research has offered potential reasons why no-action defaults matter: (i) effort, (ii) implied endorsement, and (iii) reference dependence. The first two of these explanations have been experimentally demonstrated, but the latter has received far less attention. In three experiments we produce default effects and demonstrate that reference dependence can play a major role in their effectiveness. The experimental context involves two environmentally-consequential alternatives: cheap, inefficient incandescent lightbulbs, and expensive, efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Within this context we also measure the impact of each potential rationale for a default effect. We find that the queries formulated by defaults can produce differences in constructed preferences and further that manipulating queries can also mitigate default effects.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: defaults, query theory, decision making, preference constructionworking papers series
Date posted: July 14, 2009 ; Last revised: September 5, 2012
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