The power of opting out

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

When it comes to purchasing tuition refund, USC has an opt-out option. Or if you phrase it in a different way, USC doesn’t let you exercise your right to opt in; instead, it forces you to opt out. Have you ever thought about why that is?

Let’s compare our current situation of tuition refund to that of organ donation. In Germany, only 12 percent of the population are organ donors while in Austria, the participation rate is an astounding 99 percent. One would suspect that perhaps there was some kind of trick to this fact. Austria must spend tons more money advocating for people to sign up for its organ registry or Germany must be particularly bad at mobilizing people to become organ donors. The truth is, there is only one difference between the two countries, and it comes down to a simple design quirk: Austria forces you to opt-out, while Germany lets you choose whether you want to opt-in.

Opting out is an active form of decision-making, while opting-in is affected by things like human laziness. Remember when you said, “Oh I’ll do it later,” but never actually completed the task? The simple fact of the matter is, humans just don’t like making complex choices and prefer to defer to the default. The psychology behind this phenomenon is so simple, yet affects countries profoundly.

No matter what the situation, making the choice opt-out instead of opt-in will always lead to higher participation. In the US, Denmark, and Britain, automatic enrollment of employees in pension funds increased the rate of participation. While in Oregon, automatically registering people ages 18 and older to vote is expected to increase the number of voters by 300,000 people.

So, in the end, what it all comes down to is USC trying to take advantage of your brain’s aversion to making active choices. USC believes that it’s in your best interest to have some sort of insurance in case you need to drop out of college and maybe, subconsciously, your brain decides that that’s okay. So guess what? You now have tuition refund!