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7. Reasoning: Hacks 70–74 > 74. Maintain the Status Quo

Maintain the Status Quo

People don’t like change. If you really want people to try something new, you should just coerce them into giving it a go and chuck the idea of persuading them straight off.

By default, people side with what already is and what happened last time. We’re curious, as animals go, but even humans are innately conservative. Like the Dice Man, who delegates all decisions to chance in Luke Rhinehart’s classic 1970s novel of the same name, was told: “It’s the way a man chooses to limit himself that determines his character. A man without habits, consistency, redundancy—and hence boredom—is not human. He’s insane.” 1

In this hack we’re going to look at our preference for the way things are and where this tendency comes from. I’m not claiming that people don’t change—obviously this happens all the time and is the most interesting part of life—but, in general, people are consistent and tend toward consistency. Statistically, if you want to predict what people will do in a familiar situation, the most useful thing you can measure is what they did last time. Past action correlates more strongly with their behavior than every other variable psychologists have tried to measure. 2 If you’re interested in predicting who people will vote for, what they will buy, what kind of person they will sleep with, anything at all really, finding out what tendencies they’ve exhibited or what habits they’ve formed before is the most useful information at your disposal. You’re not after what they say they will do—not what party, brand, or sexual allegiance they tick on a form—nor the choice they think they’re feeling pressured into making. Check out what they actually did last time and base your prediction on that. You won’t always be right, but you will be right more often by basing your guess upon habit than upon any other single variable.


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