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The Power of Defaults in our Everyday Lives (part 2)

προεπιλογών defaults

For the first part of the article “The Power of Defaults in our Everyday Lives”, click here.

In the first part of this article, we analyzed the power of Defaults (Default Options) and some successful applications of Nudging through them.

Let’s dive into some more applications:

Decision Points as a solution for Defaults

Another way to deal with the issues that arise from the Defaults Effect (especially when they have negative impact on our lives, like procrastination) is to set Decision Points.

Setting Decision Points means that we have to find some ways to stop the default option and put ourselves (or someone else) in the process of Decision-Making. In this way, we take a step back and think if what we currently do helps us achieve our goals or not. This nudge is more than half the way to choose the “right” option.


The ideal nudge for a student or a freelancer (who spend more time in Social Media than they should, in order to finish their work) is to use notifications/reminders when a specific time period passes by.

Just as our smart phones frequently notify us in order to grab our attention, we can use the same tool to notify ourselves to get back to our work.  For example, many people put their alarm in the farthest corner of the room or even in another room, in order to make sure they will get up from bed on time!

These kind of actions need self-discipline and commitment to ourselves. That’s why there are applications and products that help people nudge themselves or their friends by using them.

Such mobile apps are Clocky and Alarmy.

Large Quantities of Food Consumption

Let’s see that through a common narrative:

It was New Year’s Eve, family and friends gathered in our home to celebrate and eat. The guests discussed with each other and enjoyed their drinks until the food was ready. Then, I brought a bowl of chips and cashews, and suddenly everyone started eating them so quickly that the bowl was almost empty in just 5 minutes. The result of their action was to put their appetite in danger, and that wouldn’t be the best option for those who put so much effort and time in preparing the wonderful meal. All guests knew that they should have stopped eating chips and cashews, but they couldn’t help themselves. They were acting irrationally in terms of utility for themselves and respect to the hosts of the meal. Hence, what I did was simply to remove the bowl. That led to a win-win situation which put a smile of relief on everyone’s face.

This example shows us that people sometimes tend to keep acting irrationally, even when they know that their behavior has a negative impact in themselves or other people. In this point, they have to be nudged from someone else in order to change their “bad” behavior. In this case, it was the withdrawal of the bowl from the table by the host.

There are other cases which concern larger groups of people -like behaviors of a community which lead to littering problems- or a larger authority like an organization, a municipality or even the government itself that can set a nudge in order to drive behaviors for the best of the society.


As it seems through numerous aspects of our daily lives, we tend to face a lot of temptations that we cannot simply resist. That lack of self-discipline leads people to create commitment strategies for themselves or others in order to overcome current and upcoming issues.

In such circumstances, there are 2 kinds of commitment strategies for someone to follow:

  1. The Internal Commitment

Based on that commitment, we take precaution when we are still in a neutral situation, so that we will be prepared when the expected situation arises. In other words, we pre-nudge and prepare ourselves to take the best possible decision, in order avoid temptation and achieve our goals.

  1. The External Commitment

Based on that commitment, we commit to our friends or even to the society we live in to help us stick to our goals. A common example would be for someone to ask a friend to help through reminding or by setting a goal-driven bet.

A further solution would be to use nudging apps like the aforementioned ones. There are also some other types of applications that have been created in order to commit to our Social Media “friends”, by notifying them in case we don’t stick to the goals that we have set. These goals might be some weight loss or the deadline of a project.

Conclusions for Defaults

Setting your defaults in a way that will help you make the right decision when issues arise is surely a clever way for people to improve their everyday wellbeing.

If you remember in Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, Odysseus (also known by the Latin name Ulysses) was known as a ingenious and wise man, and that’s why he knew how to set his options. He made his crew tie him up at the mast of the ship and also swear not to obey him until they have passed the Sirens, whose song was the most beautiful, but deadly. If you want to get a better idea of this story click here.

Despite the aformentioned positive effects of setting your default options, people tend to ignore the fact that making a decision is changed based on the environment of the moment of Decision-Making. That’s why nudging by other authorities seems to be so effective in such situations.

While reading this article, you have possibly thought of more ways that Defaults influence the decisions we make in our everyday lives. If you often find your self trapped in them and you can’t find a solution, feel free to contact us in order to talk about options and ideas. Always based on Behavioral Economics insights.

Chronis Lalas

Behavioral Economist and Founder of Nudge Unit Greece

~Explaining Behavioral Economics Simply~


Soman, Dilip, Jing Xu and Amar Cheema (2010), ‘Decision Points: A Theory Emerges’ Rotman Magazine, Winter 2010, pp.64-68.

Richard H. Thaler (2015), ‘Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics’

Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sustein (2008), ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness


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