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Status quo bias is cognitive bias for the status quo; in other words, people like things to stay relatively the same.

The finding has been observed in many fields, including political science, economics and question framing.

Kahneman, Thaler and Knetch created experiments that could produce this effect reliably. They attribute it to a combination of loss aversion and the endowment effect, two ideas relevant to prospect theory. The US states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania inadvertently ran a real life experiment providing evidence of the status quo bias in the early 1990s. As part of tort law reform programs, citizens were offered two options for their automotive insurance - an expensive option giving them full right to sue and a less expensive option with restricted rights to sue. Each of the options was roughly equivalent to the other. In New Jersey the more expensive option was the default and 75% of citizens 'selected' while only 20% chose this option in Pennsylvania where the other option was the default. Similar effects have been shown for contributions to retirement plans, choice of internet privacy policies and the decision to become an organ donor

See also[]


  • Samuelson, W. & R. J. Zeckhauser. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1, pp. 7-59.
  • Kahneman, D., Knetch, J. L. & Thaler, R. H. (1991). Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5, 1, pp. 193-206
  • Johnson, E. J., Hershey, J., Meszaros, J., & Kunreuther, H. (1993). Framing, Probability Distortions, and Insurance Decisions. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 7, 35-51.
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