Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Director

Philip Langlais

Committee Member

Poornima Madhavan

Committee Member

J. Christopher Brill


When making decisions, people are often presented with a default option. Across many different domains, individuals show an inflated preference for the default option, a phenomenon known as the default effect. The current research examined the default effect and the role of loss aversion and implied endorsement in the context of environmental policy. Two hundred nineteen undergraduate participants were asked to vote on an ostensible ballot question regarding the enactment of seven environmental policies. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions based on a manipulation of the default option: a default to enact the policy (the opt-out condition), a default to not enact the policy (the opt-in condition), and a forced-choice control condition. The current study found default effects to be present for three of the seven policies. Of these three policies, participants in the opt-out default condition endorsed the policy more often than participants in the opt-in or forced-choice condition. This pattern of results supports the endowment effect (i.e., an extension of loss aversion) as an explanation of default effects, but an explicit measure of loss aversion did not. Perceptions of policymaker endorsement did not differ across default conditions and political affiliation did not predict voting behavior.


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