Reversal test

The reversal test is a heuristic designed to reduce the status quo bias .

The reversal test

The reversal test Was Introduced in the context of the bioethics of human enhancement by Nick Bostrom and Toby Ord . [1] Given that humans are suffering from irrational status quo bias, how can one distinguish between validated criteria for the growth of a person and the right to be motivated? The reversal test attempts to do this by asking if it would be a good thing if the trait was decreased : “Should not we decrease intelligence then?”

” Reversal Test : When a proposal to change a certain parameter is thought to have bad overall consequences, a change to the same parameter in the opposite direction. If they are unable to do so, then they may be unable to do so, then we have reason to suspect that they are in the position of status quo bias. ” (664)

Ideally, the test will be used to determine the condition quo is an important causal factor in the initial judgment.

Adam J. Kolber, imagining whether aliens naturally resistant to traumatic memories should adopt traumatic “memory enhancement”. [2] The “trip to reality” rebuttal to Nozick’s experiment machine thought experiment (where one’s current current is shown to be a simulation and one is available to return to reality) can also be seen as a reversal test. [3]

Double reversal test

A further elaboration on the reversal test is suggested as the double reversal test:

” Double Reversal Test : Assume it is thought that increasing a certain parameter and decreasing it would have a negative impact. If not, then there is a question of whether or not it is a question of whether or not it is strong prima facie case for thinking that it would be good to make the first intervention even in the absence of the natural countervailing factor. ” (673)

In this case the status quo bias is turned against itself, hopefully reducing its impact on the reasoning. It also handles possible arguments from evolutionary adaptation, transition costs, risk, and person-affecting morality that might otherwise complicate the simple reversal test.


Alfred Nordmann argues that the simple reversal test is a straw-man argument in favor of enhancement. He claims aussi That test Both approaches ignore That Neither are consequentialist nor deontological more That One can not view humans as collections of parameters That can be optimized separately without regard to gold Their history. [4]

Christian Weidemann similarly argues that the double reversal test can muddy the water; weighing transition costs versus benefits may be important in the future. [5]


  1. Jump up^ Nick Bostrom, Toby Ord (2006). “The reversal test: eliminating status quo bias in applied ethics”. Ethics(University of Chicago Press) 116 (4): 656-679.
  2. Jump up^ Kolber, Adam J., Therapeutic Forgetting: The Legal and Ethical Implications of Memory Dampening. Vanderbilt Law Review, Vol. 59, p. 1561, 2006; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 07-37
  3. Jump up^ Dan Weijers, Intuitive Biases in Judgments about Thought Experiments: the Experience Machine Revisited,Philosophical Writings, No. 50 & No. 51, Summer & Autumn 2011 20Judgments% 20about% 20Thought 20Experiments%% 20%% 28Dan 20Weijers% 29.pdf
  4. Jump up^ Alfred Nordmann, If and Then: A Review of Speculative NanoEthics,Nanoethics(2007) 1: 31-46
  5. Jump up^ Christian Weidemann, Towards a Heuristic for Nanoethics: The Onus of Proof in Applied Ethics. Uncovering Status Quo and Other Biases. InSize Matters: Ethical, Legal and Social Aspects of Nanobiotechnology and Nanomedicine, Johann S. Ach, Christian Weidemann (eds.), LIT Verlag Münster 2009 (pp. 126-127)

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