Patient Inertia and the Status Quo Bias: When an Inferior Option Is Preferred

Gaurav Suri, Gal Sheppes, Carey Schwartz, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Medical noncompliance is a major public-health problem. One potential source of this noncompliance is patient inertia. It has been hypothesized that one cause of patient inertia might be the status quo bias-which is the tendency to select the default choice among a set of options. To test this hypothesis, we created a laboratory analogue of the decision context that frequently occurs in situations involving patient inertia, and we examined whether participants would stay with a default option even when it was clearly inferior to other available options. Specifically, in Studies 1 and 2, participants were given the option to reduce their anxiety while waiting for an electric shock. When doing nothing was the status quo option, participants frequently did not select the option that would reduce their anxiety. In Study 3, we demonstrated a simple way to overcome status quo bias in a context relevant to patient inertia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1763-1769
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • choice
  • decision making
  • emotions
  • health
  • patient inertia
  • status quo bias

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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