The human brain loves to take shortcuts.
In a given day, it is bombarded with so many options that it would be quickly overwhelmed if it tried to make sense of all of the information.
Therefore, when it is presented with multiple options, it will often take the path of least resistance.
This has a direct impact on our decision making. It makes us more likely to follow a default option or to follow a previously recommended option. This seems a relatively insignificant fact until we realise that it means other people could be designing our behaviour without us realising.
For example, see how a simple form default resulted in Austria having more organ donors than most countries in the world. Often it is the person designing the form that determines how it is filled out, not the person who is filling it in.
Governments appreciate this and can use the knowledge of defaults to motivate citizens to save lives with just the tick of a box.
Countries that have an ‘opt-in’ box for organ donation have far fewer donors than those who have an ‘opt-out’ box.
Next time you’re filling out a form see if you can spot this in action.