The status quo bias refers to people’s preference to keep things in their current state while regarding any change as a loss. This bias results in the difficulty to process or accept change.
In a series of controlled experiments, Samuelson and Zeckhauser found that people show a disproportionate preference for choices that maintain the status quo. Their research showed a strong status quo bias in the responses. When making an important choice, people are more likely to pick the option that maintains things just the way they are.
Status Quo Bias and Behaviour
A status quo bias minimizes the risks associated with change; but it also causes people to miss out on potential benefits that might outweigh the risks.
Fleming and colleagues found that participants are more likely to accept the status quo when faced with difficult choices; leading to more errors. Their submission implies that this suboptimal choice behaviour suggests that the status quo bias may disconnect individuals preferences from their subsequent choices.
The bias intersects with other non-rational cognitive processes such as loss aversion, existence bias, endowment effect, longevity, mere exposure, and regret avoidance. Status quo bias is evident in behaviours regarding retirement plans, health, and ethical choices.
Individuals with status quo bias weigh the potential losses of switching from the status quo more heavily than the potential gains. As a result, the individual will prefer not to switch at all. In other words, we tend to oppose change unless the benefits outweigh the risks.
How status quo bias affect behaviour
The psychology behind status quo bias; and how it affects human behaviour can be explained using the irrational reasons for preferring the status quo.
Individuals with this bias make decisions by weighing the potential for loss more heavily than the potential for gain. Furthermore, when looking at a set of choices, these individuals focus more on what they could lose than what they could gain by trying something new. Therefore, this means that they prefer to remain where they are. Likewise, they would not want to try something new because they are held back by the fear of losing what they already have.
This fallacy refers to the phenomena where individual prefer to continue investing resources into a specific endeavour simply because they have already invested resources in that endeavour, even if that endeavour has not proven beneficial. You often hear these folks talk about how much they have invested. The sunk cost phenomenon applies to every aspect of human existence; whether its business, relationship or otherwise.
People stay in abusive relationships because they have invested a lot of time or remain in bad investments. After all, they have invested lots of resources.
When faced with inconsistent thoughts, we experience cognitive dissonance; an uncomfortable feeling that most people wish to minimize. Sometimes, individuals will avoid these thinking patterns that make them uncomfortable to maintain cognitive consistency.
Mere Exposure Effect
The mere exposure effect states that people tend to prefer something they’ve been exposed to before. By definition, they are exposed to the status quo more than they are to anything that is not the status quo. According to the mere exposure effect, that exposure itself creates a preference for the status quo.
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