33 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2009 Last revised: 5 Sep 2012
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: defaults, query theory, decision making, preference construction
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Dinner, Isaac M. and Johnson, Eric J. and Goldstein, Daniel G. and Liu, Kaiya, Partitioning Default Effects: Why People Choose Not to Choose (November 28, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1352488 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1352488