Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Would you like to ‘opt in’ or ‘opt out’?

Some time ago I ordered a pizza from Domino’s and started getting annoying messages and emails with their weekly promotions. However, I do not remember agreeing to them using my contact details.

Recently, when checking out from them again I noticed at the very bottom of the page a cheeky sentence: ‘Select below if you do not want to receive fantastic Domino’s offers’ and two boxes, which you need to actively tick. Well, the mystery of annoying spam emails was resolved. I did not read that information and right away assumed that they are asking to tick if I want to ‘opt in’.

Turns out this is a very powerful persuasion technique, called status quo bias. We have a preference to not change the default option given to us in choice, as it is taken as a reference point. So changing that would be perceived as a loss in our part. By nature we are very loss averse (Kahneman, Knetsch and Thaler, 1991). In other words, if the option is asking you to opt out from an offer, you are less likely to actively tick the box and refuse, than if the option is asking you to ‘opt in’ actively agree to it.

This is used in many industries, including governments when promoting organ donations (Saunders, 2012). Countries which use the ‘opt out’ strategy (‘Check the box if you don’t want to participate in the organ donation program’) have higher rates of organ donations than those who request to ‘opt in’ (‘Check the box if you want to participate in the organ donation program’).

Turns out Domino’s is also well versed in behaviour change techniques!

Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., & Thaler, R. H. (1991). Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 5, 193–206.  

Saunders, B. (2012). Opt-out organ donation without presumptions. Journal of Medical Ethics, 38, 69-72.

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