Just and Price (2013) examined outcomes in 18 U.S. elementary schools in response to the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, 2010. Their experiment concerned the link between placing fruit and vegetables by default on children’s lunch plates and the consumption of those fruit and vegetables.
The hypothesis proposed that this default option would cause an increase in consumption. Their simple methodology was for one group of schools to allow free choice and one group to impose the default about fruit and veg selection.
Consumption of fruit and veg was recorded in half portions, while sex and year group were also considered.
The researchers saw an 8 percentage point increase in the number of children that ate a serving of fruit or veg, though waste increased per pupil by 0.7 portions.
A key outcome was that the default option had its greatest effect when coupled with an incentive, in which case total fruit and veg consumption increased by 27 percentage points and wastage fell by 13 percentage points, compared with un-incentivised results.
The experiment caused minimal dining room disruption, maximising the study’s empirical worth though the researchers conclude that the measurement of half portions degraded results by 22%. Results might also vary in a non-U.S. context.
Dogruel et al (2017) studied users’ valuation of privacy features on smartphone apps, firstly with premium protection as the default and then without. 400 American participants were paid $1.50 to complete a questionnaire online.
The study hypothesises that users will accept and pay for privacy features that increase an app’s price if they are included by default.
Three groups of participants were asked to customise the features of four apps, with their selection of basic or premium privacy features of interest. One group had premium privacy features pre-selected as the default, another had basic privacy selected and the final group had no initial default. The number that chose to pay an extra 50c for the premium features was then recorded.
The result supported the hypothesis. 8.7% more people accepted the default premium privacy features than did so when they alternatively had to positively select them. However, this is not very critical to real-life purchases of apps given that the majority are pre-set on purchase.
The paper’s integrity is limited by the relatively small final sample size of 309 people. However, the integrity was improved by the elimination of the 91 respondents that responded too quickly to be taken seriously.
Cappelletti et al (2014) investigated whether a default contribution to a public good was attractive enough to over-ride both implied expectation and an informed choice. The experiment was carried out in a laboratory, at the University of Trento, on 120 students.
The Cappelletti hypothesis was that more participants would make the suggested contribution when it was the default option, compared to when active choice was required, especially when another participant had suggested the contribution. The experimental context was that a voluntary contribution should be made to a public good. The methodology of this work was for an experimental group to be presented with three forms of default setting: that advised by a human participant in the group, that set as a specific default by a participant and a default set by a computer.
43.75% of participants followed the suggested contribution when it was out forward as the default by either another participant or a computer, compared to just 21.87% when the suggestion was not the default option, but simply advice.
This supports the hypothesis put forward although the sample size is only very small at only 120 people, thus limiting the transferability of the results to wider society.
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