“We have a tendency to do nothing”
We have an irrational preference for the current state of affairs. Even when offered a new option or choice, we tend to stick to the default option.
The status quo bias is closely related to loss aversion and anchoring & adjustments since the default option is taken as a reference point. Any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss.
A real-life example:
In Europe, different countries use different policies regarding organ donation. Ben Saunders (2012) found that there are typically two types of countries. There are countries where a minority (4% – 28%) participates in the organ donor program, versus those where the majority (86% – 100%) participates.
The one small difference between these groups is the use of “opt-in” versus “opt-out” as their participation policy. Typically the opt-in countries ask “Check the box if you want to participate in the organ donation program”. Whereas the opt-out countries ask “Check the box if you don’t want to participate in the organ donation program”.
Interestingly, the Netherlands has spent the most public money by far on campaigns, etc to persuade people to participate. It got them the highest (28%) participation rate among the opt-in countries, but it didn’t get them close to the lowest participation rate of the opt-out countries.
That’s the power of the status quo.