Friday, August 5, 2016

Cognitive Bias: Status Quo Bias

Status quo bias goes by many names, but to put it simply, "if it works why change anything"   Any change form the current situation is judged to be unacceptable.

Scam victims often suffer from status quo bias, esp. after they learned the scheme they've latched onto or recruited into isn't on as firm legal and financial footing as they were lead to believe. Even when presented with all the evidence that they are in a scam, they will keep saying "I don't know if XXX is a scam. Time will tell." They don't want anything to change, even when more viable alternative such as attempt to withdraw from the scheme, report fraud to the police, and so on seem to be more reliable method of dealing with the fraud.

Status quo bias is often mixed up with other biases, such as loss aversion, sunk cost fallacy, longevity (appeal to age fallacy), endowment effect, regret avoidance, and more.

Why Do We Have Status Quo Bias

Behavioral Economists Kahneman and Tversky published a paper back in 1982 that found people feel greater regret for bad outcomes that result from new actions taken, than for bad consequences that are the consequences of inaction. In other words, if doing something is bad, and not doing anything is also bad, people tend to do nothing. One possible explanation is people can then blame circumstances (I didn't change anything, circumstances changed) rather than take responsibility for their own choices. This is a fallacy, of course, since choice to do nothing is still a choice.

How Status Quo Bias interacts with other biases

Endowment effect is also known as "divestiture aversion" in behavioral economics. Basically, people ascribe more value to things merely because they own them. It's also related to "mere ownership effect" in social psychology.  It can be described simply as "once you have it, you will want to keep it than give it up".

Sunk Cost fallacy is related, in that "once you started on a course of action, you justify your continual involvement by claiming you already spent effort and resources (sunk costs) and you cannot let it go to waste when it seems more prudent to cut the losses and change course."

As an example of endowment effect, people will often pay more to retain something they own, than to obtain something they do not own, even when there is no reason for attachment, and even when the object was obtained merely minutes ago.

Dan Ariely and Ziv Carmon did a test on hypothetical selling price (willingness to accept) NCAA Final Four tournament tickets. They found that the ratio of WTA (willingness to accept) vs WTP (willingness to pay) is 14 to 1. In other words, those who have the ticket want 14 times higher the price those that don't have the tickets are willing to pay.