#14: Status quo bias, Ambiguity effect

Status quo bias

Users hate change.

You’ve probably heard this saying before. People tend to see any change from the current “baseline” as a loss. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your new design is worse. Many people feel more comfortable when they work within a familiar environment, and this bias often affects decision-making. If you think about this from the physiology perspective, it makes sense. Your brain will consume more energy if there is something new to understand and learn. The human brain is very lazy and always tries to find ways to simplify things for itself =) which, by the way, leads us to innovate and optimize. Sadly for the brain, and luckily for the innovation, you cannot prevent changes. So, the only way forward is to accept this fact and take this bias into account when you make these changes happen. Provide more help and support, involve users (and customers, if they are different audiences) early and often, and have more patience =) You can do it 🤙

Ambiguity effect

When choosing from several options, people tend to select the one with a more certain probability of the positive outcome, rather than the one with an unknown probability.

Sounds like minimizing risks to me. A good example I found is mortgage rates - way more people prefer the known fixed rates, so they know exactly what to expect. And on the other hand, variable rates have less appeal because there is so much ambiguity around the costs. Even though, statistically, variable-rate mortgages have been more likely to save you money. Same with investments. People are more likely to choose more stable options (e.g. government bonds, bank deposits, etc.) that have a known interest rate and predictable returns. The riskier and more volatile investments (e.g. stocks, crypto, etc.) have shown to produce more financial rewards, but the ambiguity effect takes its toll on the customer adoption =)

PS Speculative bubbles are a different story, and I am sure there is something about our psychology that can explain this behaviour.


Disclaimer: All opinions are my own. They don’t represent any of my current or previous employers’ views.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_quo_bias

https://www.nngroup.com/videos/users-hate-change/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambiguity_effect

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