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Common Explanations for Status Quo Bias

These explanations are all irrational for preferring the status quo:

  • Loss Aversion: When we make decisions, we weigh the potential for loss more heavily than the potential for gain.
  • Sunk Costs: We continue to invest resources like time, money, or effort into a specific endeavor just because we are already invested, not because it is the best choice.
  • Cognitive Dissonance: In decision-making, we an option as more valuable once we have chosen it. Considering an alternative can cause cognitive dissonance.
  • Mere Exposure Effect: It states that people prefer something they've been exposed to before.
  • Rationality vs. Irrationality: We may choose to keep our current situation because of the potential transition cost of switching to an alternative. It becomes irrational when we ignore choices that can improve a situation because we want to maintain the status quo.

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Status quo bias

Status quo bias is when we prefer that our environment and situation should remain unchanged.

The bias has the most impact in the area of decision-making, as we tend to prefer the more familiar choice over the less familiar, but often better, option.

  • When offered several sandwich options, individuals often choose a sandwich they have eaten before.
  • In 1985, Coca Cola reformulated the original Coke flavor and started selling a "New Coke." Although blind taste tests found many consumers preferred New Coke, consumers continued to buy Coke Classic. New Coke was discontinued in 1992.
  • In political elections, the current candidate is more likely to win than the challenger.

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RELATED IDEAS

This is when we mistakenly think that eventually, our luck has to change for the better.

Somehow, we find it impossible to accept bad results and give up—we often insist on keeping at it until we get positive results, regardless of what the odds of that happening actually are.

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IDEAS

  • Recognise that the unconscious bias is a systemic issue. Internal cultures need to be checked and addressed first.
  • There is no shame or guilt in unconscious bias. Unconscious bias stems from our tendency to categorise people into social groups and often doesn't match our conscious values.
  • It takes a series of conversations and interventions to prevent and protect against unconscious bias.

Is why we get attached to things when we had a hand in creating them. 

It echoes the sunk cost fallacy: We're not prioritizing the object/project as much as we are the resources we've put into it.

The IKEA effect is easy to put to good use at work. You can do it for yourself by getting deeper in the weeds of the project you're a part of.