Like a deer in the headlights: Threat and decisions that favor the status quo
Horstman Reser, April
University of Kansas
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I investigate the status quo (SQ) bias as a heuristic in decision-making, and the impact that threats have on heuristic use. In Study 1 participants read about scientific theories that were 30%, 60%, or 90% likely to be correct, based on scientific expert judgment. P's rated how well the theory described the way things ought to work. As the probability the theory was correct increased, participants felt that it described how things ought to work—this equation of "is" with "ought" demonstrates the naturalistic fallacy. In Study 2, participants received positive, negative, or neutral feedback on an intelligence test, and then evaluated 2 health insurance plans (the status quo or an alternative). Participants receiving personal threat in the form of negative feedback more highly evaluated the current plan—people who did not receive a personal threat were more likely to consider alternatives, and did not value the status quo option. In Study 3, students received either no threat or a mortality salience (MS) threat, and then were asked to consider an alternative form of grading (changing from quizzes to papers or vice versa) in a Western Civilization course. MS-primed participants showed a higher evaluation of the current format of grading (regardless of whether the SQ was described as papers or quizzes); Control participants did not highly evaluate the SQ. In Study 4, MS- or TV-primed participants rated 2 statements, each containing 4 Rokeach values. One statement was characterized as long-standing American values (SQ), the other was characterized as newer American values. MS increased endorsement of the SQ value set and decreased endorsement for the newer value set. These studies show that status quo bias acts like a heuristic—it's used to estimate value, and its use increases under threat. Because mortality salience enhances status quo bias, the defense of one's cultural worldview (CWV) in terror management studies might be properly explained in terms of defense of the SQ. Also discussed are similarities to lay epistemic theory and contrasts with economic decision models.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of Kansas, Psychology, 2007.
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