Anchoring Bias

Let’s talk about cognitive biases: ANCHORING

Anchoring is the tendency to rely too heavily on one piece of information when making decisions, usually the first piece of information you came across.

  • Think of first impressions, you tend to use the data you collect from a first impression to judge the person later on. If the person was rude to you initially, you’ll tend to anchor to that information and think the person is rude at future interactions even if they demonstrate that to be an exception rather than the rule (i.e., it was just a bad first experience that didn’t accurately represent them).

  • Another example is life expectancy. If your parents lived for a long time, you anchor to that observation when evaluating your own life expectancy rather than objectively looking at all the other differences between them and you.

  • Lastly, think of buying a used car or bartering over something. As soon as one side states their first price offer, the (subjective) anchor is set. The counterbid (counter-anchor) is the second-anchor. From these points forward, both parties are working from these anchors to continue negotiations even though they can be completely arbitrary.

Anchoring bias is one of the most persuasive inborn effects when looking at psychological biases. We tend to become anchored to values and beliefs that aren’t even relevant to the task at hand.

Now how do we avoid this bias?

Well, like most biases—it’s probably inevitable part of life to fall into these lazy thought patterns if we aren’t diligent. In other words, all cognitive biases develop on a subconscious level, so awareness is the first step in rectifying it’s overuse.

My favorite evidence based strategy to combat anchoring bias is to come up with reasons why your particular anchor is inappropriate for the situation (consider-the-opposite strategy). When we add a step into the decision making process that is specifically related to exposing the weakness of a position—a deal—or a plan—by considering alternatives, it naturally reduces the influence of an anchor.

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