Understanding the Default Effect and Its Substantial Relevance

The default effect is an observed phenomenon in human psychology that basically describes how a lot of people will usually use the default option that’s presented to them. It’s an important and valuable concept to understand because of its widespread use in technology and other consumer products. Google has for example paid Firefox hundreds of millions of dollars in the past to have Google’s search engine be the default in Firefox. The Yahoo! corporation has also engaged in a bidding war to have its search engine be the default in Firefox before too, and the reason that these corporations are willing to spend large amounts of money for this basic feature is that their executives understand the power of the default effect in directing substantial amounts of human behavior.

There are plenty of other examples that illustrate the default effect’s relevance, such as Microsoft devoting immense resources to maintaining Windows as the widespread default operating system on many new desktop computers, and Facebook attempting (and fortunately failing) at implementing their restrictive Facebook-only Internet service in India. Profits of these corporations are predicated to a significant extent on personal data, and it’s therefore evident that stronger holds over that data will allow for potentially higher profit shares.

Additionally, the default effect’s power is amplified by the tendency humans often have to form habits. Once a habit is formed around whatever the implementation of the default effect is, that makes the default effect all the stronger.

In upper Silicon Valley domains there is also the talk of “the next billion,” referencing the billions of people who have still not used the Internet. One of the goals of these corporations (whether they admit it or not) is to lock in those users and exclude their competitors so that they are able to take increased advantage of the new data share. The data (especially the surface data) of a lot of other people has already been mined and collected by them, so they are approaching these people who haven’t connected to the online world yet. It’s reminiscent of the cigarette industry’s historic and still ongoing attempts to establish brand loyalty among smokers while also hooking people while they’re young.

In sum here, the default effect is important to understand and therefore be able to more effectively avoid modern technological exploitation. Sharing this sort of insight with others should help them with that as well.