I have a checkbox that is intended to allow the user to send email notifications or not. We'd prefer the email notifications to be sent, so email notifications are sent by default, giving the user an option to not send them.

What I'm wondering, is it better to start with the checkbox checked, and the label saying: "Send email notifications".

Option 1

Or, start with the checkbox not checked and the label saying "Don't send email notifications"

Option 2

Perhaps I'm over-thinking this, but I wondered if there was a solid reason to use one over the other?


2 Answers 2


I would always use a positive statement because it is easier to understand, especially in the context of a checkbox.

Mentally replace the checkbox with simply YES or NO. Then your statements are:

  YES: Send email notifications
  NO: Send email notifications

  YES: Don't send email notifications
  NO: Don't send email notifications

I think the first two are easier to understand.


Ok, nobody coined this in both discussions, so here is something interesting for you to consider about the power of the opt-out.

There was a rather famous study on organ transplant donations consent rates in psychology.

…you will notice that pairs of similar countries have very different levels of organ donations. For example, take the following pairs of countries: Denmark and Sweden; the Netherlands and Belgium; Austria and Germany…

enter image description here

So, what could explain these differences? It turns out that it is the design of the form at the DMV. In countries where the form is set as “opt-in” (check this box if you want to participate in the organ donation program) people do not check the box and as a consequence they do not become a part of the program. In countries where the form is set as “opt-out” (check this box if you don’t want to participate in the organ donation program) people also do not check the box and are automatically enrolled in the program. In both cases large proportions of people simply adopt the default option.

Considering this, the most efficient way in your case would be to use an opt-out. But is this way the most ethical? The standard practice is to use the opt-in. Honestly, I would feel that I am taking advantage of human behavior mechanisms here, if I would choose to use the opt-out, because it's so powerful. I wouldn't be surprised if it's considered a shady UX pattern. So I would choose the opt-in.

  • What if the opt out was an opt-in checkbox that was enabled by default? That would likely have a noticeable impact
    – Nathanael
    Feb 3, 2016 at 11:51
  • I think in at least some countries pre-enabled opt-in is illegal (Germany, if memory serves me right). As for the impact, I haven't seen other researches of the issue, so I cannot say.
    – Zoe K
    Feb 3, 2016 at 12:04

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