Default options are pre-set courses of action that take effect if nothing is specified by the decision maker (Thaler & Sunstein, 2008), and setting defaults is an effective nudge when there is inertia or uncertainty in decision making (Samson, 2014). Since defaults do not require any effort by the decision maker, defaults can be a simple but powerful tool when there is inaction (Samson & Ramani, 2018). When choices are difficult, defaults may also be perceived as a recommended course of action (McKenzie et al., 2006). Requiring people to opt out if they do not wish to donate their organs, for example, has been associated with higher donation rates (Johnson & Goldstein, 2003). Similarly, making contributions to retirement savings accounts has become automatic in some countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States.


Johnson, E. J., & Goldstein, D. G. (2003). Do defaults save lives? Science, 302, 1338-1339.

McKenzie, C. R., Liersch, M. J., & Finkelstein, S. R. (2006). Recommendations implicit in policy defaults. Psychological Science, 17(5), 414-420.

Samson, A. (2014, February 25). A simple change that could help everyone drink less. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Samson, A., & Ramani, P. (2018, August 27). Finding the right nudge for your clients. Investment News. Retrieved from

Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. (2008). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.