It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Assessing Default Effects in a Brazilian Gas Station

  •  Maurício Mittelman    
  •  Fernando Macieira    
  •  Marcos Avila    


When an option is set as the default and as a result people are more likely to choose it, we call it a default effect. In this research we investigated whether drivers were more likely to choose a more expensive type of fuel if it was set as the default option by a mere suggestion from the gas station attendant. In the first study, we collected data showing that drivers did not believe they could be affected by default options. The second study, however, refuted these findings: we conducted a field experiment in which a trivial question asked by the gas station attendant, whose effect was the creation of a default option, led drivers to purchase a product they would not otherwise have considered. We thus provide evidence that default effects might be even more pervasive in real situations with real consumers than what one would expect from controlled laboratory experiments.

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