Weekend Reading: Ness Labs – The Default Effect: Why We Renounce Our Ability to Choose

This article appears as part of Casey Weade's Weekend Reading for Retirees series. Every Friday, Casey highlights four hand-picked articles on trending retirement topics and delivers them straight to your email inbox. Get on the list here.
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Weekend Reading

When presented with a list of options, the ability to make our own choice grants us control. However, when a default option is added to the mix, humans tend to run with the status quo.


Safety and time: Whether it’s a career path, health insurance plan or financial product you’re looking to add to your portfolio, many things come with a default option. This pre-selected choice is often seen as the safest path, even when another might be better suited for you. Additionally, opting for the default option comes down to convenience. You avoid having to research other potential choices and evaluating their pros and cons.

Consider the road less traveled: While in certain cases, the default effect can be beneficial (i.e. – having only healthy food available in your kitchen), in other instances, it can “lead you to live a life you have not [truly] chosen”. To break free from a default life, some strategies listed here include:

📌 Make space for metacognition: In other words, think about your thinking. Analyze your thought process and pinpoint any underlying patterns that guide your decisions.

📌 Practice deliberate decision-making: These may be small decisions, but questioning your daily choices can help ensure they are intentional.

📌 Project yourself into the future: Picture future you; Does the default option lead you to that person, or should you change direction?

Ask yourself: Where are you exhibiting default behavior and what could it cost you?