I'll have what she's having: (Social) Perceptions of default options and implications for marketing and decision making.

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The power that default options have in shaping choice has been well established, yet relatively little is known about how decision makers experience and interpret such preselected options. Research suggests that individuals assume defaults represent a recommended course of action, yet the basis for this recommendation is unclear. Across two experimental studies, we explored consumer theories of default recommendations, examining spontaneous and experimentally manipulated perceptions of the basis of the default, and the impact on decision making across different contexts. Evidence across diverse populations and tasks shows that options were retained to a greater extent when represented as the default, consistent with classic default effects. Furthermore, a significant default effect emerged when the decision context was framed as complex. In line with research on social influence, defaults were most effective when they were presumed to reflect the most popular option (regardless of context). Interestingly, participants rated defaults as being more likely to represent the most popular option, regardless of decision context or default explanation provided to them. These findings highlight the importance of understanding the contexts in which default choices are relied upon and how those defaults are perceived by decision makers.


This article was originally published in International Journal of Consumer Studies. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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International Journal of Consumer Studies


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