Simply put, a default is the outcome a decision-maker gets under the status quo. It’s the pre-set option that is made available when we do nothing, and requires no effort on our part. For example, when you subscribe to Netflix, your subscription automatically renews at the end of the monthly cycle, unless you choose to cancel it. Automatic renewals are a common example of defaults, and they’re cleverly based on the well-researched principle that human beings are naturally predisposed to inertia – aka the status quo bias.
Defaults, when deployed correctly, can be very effective in encouraging people to take a particular course of action. Another example of a default is an ‘opt-out’- approach to a scheme or policy. Organ donation is commonly used to argue the effectiveness of opt-out policies, since donation rates are much higher in places with opt-out policies than those which use opt-in, where a person needs to take action to become an organ donor.