The reversal test is a debiasing heuristic for reducing status quo bias. The test was introduced by Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord in a 2006 article (Bostrom & Ord 2006). Although the authors proposed it as a tool for reducing status quo bias specifically in the field of applied ethics, the test is applicable much more generally, to the evaluation of any decision involving a potential deviation from the status quo along some continuous dimension.

The reversal test

Bostrom and Ord define the reversal test as follows (Bostrom & Ord 2006: 664-665):

When a proposal to change a certain parameter is thought to have bad overall consequences, consider a change to the same parameter in the opposite direction. If this is also thought to have bad overall consequences, then the onus is on those who reach these conclusions to explain why our position cannot be improved through changes to this parameter. If they are unable to do so, then we have reason to suspect that they suffer from status quo bias.


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