Overcome Your Status Quo Bias By Reversing The Situation


Should you stay or should you go? Status quo bias is our tendency to, when presented with a choice, prefer the current scenario rather than making a change. You can account for this natural bias by reversing the situation and the direction of change.

Photo by David Gómez

Status quo bias stems from a variety of human tendencies. A natural fear of change, our preference for familiarity and laziness all contribute. It’s not our friend, either: Status quo bias contributes to many poorly thought decisions (such as our tendency to overspend on big purchases).

Consider this: would you take a $13,000 wage increase to relocate to another city? Many people would say no. Yet consider the opposite: If you were living in another city, would you take a $13,000 wage decrease to move back to this one?

You can apply this reversal heuristic to smaller decisions, too. For example, instead of wondering whether you should spend a dollar for a chocolate bar, you could ask yourself whether you’d be willing to receive a dollar for skipping a chocolate bar for the day.

This quick reversal is a simpler version of the Reversal Test, a mental tool philosophers use to account for status quo bias.

The Reversal Test [Less Wrong]


  • My former boss once provided me with a very good analogy about just this. He said that I was in a rut – but it was a fur-lined one.

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