Status quo bias is usually justified

post by Amadeus Pagel (amadeus-pagel) · 2024-06-08T14:54:13.648Z · LW · GW · 3 comments

This is a link post for

Generally, we know more about the status quo then about anything else.

Often, we are adapted to the status quo and the status quo is adapted to us.

Often, the status quo is a compromise between different groups, individuals or even desires within an indivdual.

The test for status quo bias is reversal. If we oppose a change in one direction, do we also oppose change in the other direction? We’re concerned about global warming, and we were also concerned about global cooling. Any change in the climate has unpredictable consequences.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by AnthonyC · 2024-06-08T20:01:07.156Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It is true that wanting things not to change is often a reasonable desire. Part of the error in the bias, I think, is that we assume that the status quo stays the same by default. In reality, at least nowadays, a lot of things change by default unless we put in deliberate effort, and make additional changes, to keep them the same. There isn't actually a no-change option, but we pretend there is.

comment by Julius (julius-1) · 2024-06-11T18:22:43.869Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What's the mechanism for change then? I assume you would agree that many technological changes, such as the Internet, have required overcoming a lot of status quo bias. If we leaned more into status quo bias, would these things come much later? That seems like a significant downside to me.


Also, I don't think the status quo is necessarily adapted to us. For example, the status quo is to have checkout aisles filled with candy.  We also have very high rates of obesity. That doesn't seem well-adapted.

Replies from: amadeus-pagel
comment by Amadeus Pagel (amadeus-pagel) · 2024-06-13T00:31:51.147Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Status quo bias is a tendency to be skeptical of change, not an outright rejection. I don't see any reason to assume that this tendency is badly calibrated. I don't think the internet had to overcome that much resistance. At least in the US, early legislation like Section 230 was supportive.  There are also technologies where more skepticism would have been appropriate, like leaded gasoline, and arguably even cars.