Replication: Default effect

Default Effekt



May 20, 2023

Original work

Johnson, E. J., Bellman, S., & Lohse, G. L. (2002). Defaults, framing and privacy: Why opting in-opting out.

Team Bachelor Spring 2023

  • Marina Burger
  • Mike Gafner
  • Fiona Laski
  • Naveen Karunanithy
  • Lazar Knezevic
  • Salome Kurt
  • Diego Roth
  • Sai-Rathika Sriranjan
  • Yves Schmidt
  • Anja Studer
  • Jenny Vay

OSF Pre-Reg (German)


Differences in opt-in and opt-out responses are an important element of the current public debate concerning on-line privacy and more generally for permission marketing. We explored the issue empirically. Using two on-line experiments we show that the default has a major role in determining revealed preferences for further contact with a Web site. We then explore the origins of these differences showing that both framing and defaults have separate and additive effects in affecting the construction of preferences.


We ran a direct replication of Experiment 1 and 2 of Johnson et al. (2002). The questions on receiving an additional survey at the end were included in an unrelated questionnaire on autonomous driving (~ 10 minutes). The 10 questions (experiment 1: 4; experiment 2: 6) were pooled and randomly shown to the participants at the end of the driving questionnaire.


The original paper had 277 participants in experiment 1 and 234 participants in experiment 2. We aimed at a similar sample had a great start with 408 participants. Unfortunately more than 35% dropped out on the first page of the questionnaire. Our working hypothesis is, that most of our participants did the experiment on their mobile - our questionnaire was checked for that but apparently we missed that the handling was not ideal … hence the large dropout.

Overall we ended up with 170 participants (49.41% female). Age was recorded in age brackets:

agegroup frequency
18 - 24 113
25 - 34 20
35 - 44 4
45 - 54 19
55 - 64 10
65 or older 4

Experiment 1

Johnson et al. (2002) used four questions to evaluate the presence of a default (no default in question 1 and 2 (listed both as 1 in the original) and two questions (!3 and Q4) with a pre-set default selection) and crossed these with framing (positive (Q1, Q3) and negative (Q2, Q4)). Putting the results in a rank order (see Figure 1) we are getting the highest participation rate in Q2 (no default, negative) followed by Q3 (default, positive), Q4 (default, negative) and the lowest in Q1 (no default, positive)) - so we are looking for the sequence 2341.

Figure 1: Items Johnson et al. Exp 1

Our results show the pattern 3214 as can be seen in Figure 2. Noteworthy seems that Q4 (default, negative) was de-selected in most cases which is surprising and different to the original.

Figure 2: Results Replication Experiment 1

Running the logistic regression predicting choice with framing X default (see Table 1) shows a framing effect as well as an effect for the default condition (of course in the opposite direction). The interaction term is also significant.

Table 1: Logistic regression for Experiment 1
Predictors Odds Ratios CI p
(Intercept) 0.08 0.01 – 0.28 0.001
Framing [FP] 24.00 3.78 – 232.46 0.002
Default condition [ND] 9.82 2.11 – 71.95 0.008
Framing [FP] × Default
condition [ND]
0.02 0.00 – 0.20 0.001
Observations 76
R2 Tjur 0.184

Experiment 2

In experiment 2 Johnson et al. (2002) modify the questions (see Figure 3) in adding a Yes/No option (instead the simple tick box in Experiment 1) and an empty version where no boxes are ticked. Inspecting the results the rank order is now 651243.

Items Johnson et al. Exp 2
Figure 3

There is a clear framing effect and a step wise default effect (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Results Johnson et al. Exp 2

There several differences inspecting our results. Our rank ordered results give us the pattern: 612534. Remarkable are also the much lower participation rates (below 50%) for Not participate and No Default in both framing conditions. Only Participate in the positive frame is above 75% (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: Results Replication Experiment 2

Running the logistic regression predicting choice with framing X default X answer option (see Table 2) shows a significant framing effect as well as an effect for the the presence of an answer option (Y/N). The two-way interaction terms for framing and default is significant. There is also a three-way-interaction of framing, default and answer option mainly driven by the difference between participate and no-default.

Table 2: Logistic regression for Experiment 2
Predictors Odds Ratios CI p
(Intercept) 1.20 0.36 – 4.16 0.763
Framing [FP] 8.33 1.42 – 69.92 0.027
Default condition [DP] 0.97 0.19 – 4.96 0.973
Default condition [ND] 1.25 0.25 – 6.18 0.781
Answer Option [Y] 0.08 0.00 – 0.67 0.040
Framing [FP] × Default
condition [DP]
0.03 0.00 – 0.29 0.004
Framing [FP] × Default
condition [ND]
0.43 0.03 – 5.01 0.499
Framing [FP] × Answer
Option [Y]
0.12 0.01 – 4.10 0.186
Default condition [DP] ×
Answer Option [Y]
8.82 0.63 – 255.72 0.132
Default condition [ND] ×
Answer Option [Y]
5.33 0.40 – 149.91 0.239
(Framing [FP] × Default
condition [DP]) × Answer
Option [Y]
181.48 2.90 – 9602.29 0.009
(Framing [FP] × Default
condition [ND]) × Answer
Option [Y]
0.66 0.01 – 31.07 0.833
Observations 190
R2 Tjur 0.351


The obvious problem with this data set (and the replication) is the small n we collected - due to the huge dropout rate and the many conditions (n = 10) we end up with quite small cell sizes (around 20) for most questions but for some Q3 in Experiment 1 and 2 with super small n of 9 and 7, respectively. So, my guess would be, that a larger n would yield more consistent results with the original work - we might have to run this again some time soon!


Johnson, E. J., Bellman, S., & Lohse, G. L. (2002). Defaults, framing and privacy: Why opting in-opting out. Marketing letters, 13, 5-15.