What I have done to prevent myself from falling prey to this effect is to view answers sorted by "active", not by "votes". Of course, this is not currently a viable solution for the larger problem, because it would require most people to make the switch themselves.
There is a UX conflict in choosing the default answer ordering. If the reader is going to vote, you want to show them the answers in a random order, or, if he has already seen the question before, with not-yet-read ones on top, so all answers get the chance to be seen and voted upon. But if the reader is someone who only wants to see a solution, and is not going to vote, it is in their best interest to see the answers ordered by usefulness. StackExchange is known for tailoring the interface for the thousands of one-time readers who come to the site from a search engine and never register, so I guess this is why the "best solution first" order was chosen as the default.
Maybe the best solution would be to distinguish between these two cases, making a guess at when somebody is likely to be interested in voting, and when he wants to grab a solution and go away, and show a different default order in both cases. A good way to guess would be having an accepted answer: anything coming afterwards needs less to be upvoted.
So my proposal is:
- if a registered user who has enough reputation to vote views a question which does not yet have an accepted answer, show the answers ordered by "active" by default
- in any other situation, show the answers ordered by "votes" by default
This is of course more complicated than it looks on the surface. It throws up the problem: how to show answers to a user who has chosen a different setting than the default one? I guess the team will have to think that one through before they know if it is implementable, it depends partly on how they save the users' default preferences in the database.