Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 7-59

First online:

Status quo bias in decision making

  • William SamuelsonAffiliated withBoston University
  • , Richard ZeckhauserAffiliated withHarvard University

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Most real decisions, unlike those of economics texts, have a status quo alternative—that is, doing nothing or maintaining one's current or previous decision. A series of decision-making experiments shows that individuals disproportionately stick with the status quo. Data on the selections of health plans and retirement programs by faculty members reveal that the status quo bias is substantial in important real decisions. Economics, psychology, and decision theory provide possible explanations for this bias. Applications are discussed ranging from marketing techniques, to industrial organization, to the advance of science.

Key words

decision making experimental economics status quo bias choice model behavioral economics rationality