Anchoring effect: the characteristics of this cognitive bias

How completely free, impartial and free from influence are we when making a decision? Even though we are not aware, there are countless factors that exert a great influence on us in the decision making process.

An example of this is the anchor effectAccording to which, something as simple as the way or the order in which certain information is presented to us can determine how we will interpret the rest and, therefore, our subsequent decisions.

    What is the anchoring effect?

    The anchoring effect, also known as the “focalism effect”, is a psychological phenomenon. classified in the cognitive bias group. This effect describes the tendency of people to stay longer with the first information offered to them, which influences subsequent decision-making.

    In other words, when a person finds himself in front of a source of information, whatever its nature, the data presented at the beginning is “anchored” in the memory of the person with much more force than later.

    Therefore, during a decision-making process, the anchoring effect occurs whenever people they unconsciously use the information perceived at the beginning to form an opinion, render a judgment or make a decision. At the time of anchor formation, the rest of opinions form around this information, so it is considered cognitive bias.

    This tendency to determine information as a starting point, as a result of which we will develop our opinions and decisions, is observed in practically all areas of our life, so that in the same way it can work against us , we can use it to our advantage.

    An example is found when discussing or haggling over the price of a house, car, or anything for which we need to pay or receive a deposit. The amount that this initially established this will be our point of reference when comparing or make proposals. Knowing this, if the starting price is very high, it is very likely that even if we lower the price, the final fixed cost will continue to be higher than what we were probably willing to pay, but lower than the previous one.

      What’s the explanation for that?

      Although many theories attempt to explain this phenomenon, there is no consensus on which of them offer a more precise clarification. Most researchers and theorists report that the anchoring effect is an easy phenomenon to prove, but difficult to describe. However, three different explanations can give us an idea of ​​the causes of this effect.

      1. Anchoring and adjustment

      According to this explanation, once the anchor is given, people tend to move away from it to make its final decision. However, they do this inefficiently, which is why their final decision is closer to the anchored information than it would have been if they had not resisted.

      This hypothesis has been widely criticized because for this, the anchoring effect must be given consciously; when in fact, the person is not aware of it.

      2. Selective accessibility

      Another explanation is that taken from what is called “proof of the confirmatory hypothesis”. According to the theory of selective accessibility when presenting the information with which to anchor the anchor, the person performs an assessment in which they reflect on whether this is an appropriate response, and if not will make a series of subsequent judgments, but all be in relation to the information used as an “anchor”.

      3. Change in attitude

      The last of the explanations provided by cognitive science is that which explains the anchoring in terms of attitude change. According to this theory, when “grounding” information is given, a change or alteration in the attitude of the person is effected with the aim of making the person more favorable to the specific characteristics of that information, thereby making the person more favorable to the specific characteristics of that information. predisposes future responses to be anchor-like.

      What factors influence it?

      There are a number of factors or conditions that can modulate, in some way, the shape and intensity with which the anchoring process occurs. these they include mood, experience, personality and cognitive skills.

      1. Mood

      Some research has found that our mood affects whether or not we get carried away by the anchor effect. More precisely, people with a sad or depressed mood tend to do more in-depth assessments and the accuracy of the information, so it is less likely that an anchoring effect will occur.

      However, other studies reveal very different dynamics according to which depressed people tend to be more passive in their decision-making, so they can be influenced more easily.

      2. Experience

      Other studies highlight the idea that people with high knowledge and experience in the specific area mentioned in the “anchor” information are much less sensitive to the effects of this phenomenon. However, theorists themselves say that experts are also not completely free to experience this effect.

      3. Personality

      According to some research in which the degree of sensitivity to the anchoring effect was correlated with some of the characteristics of the Big Five, people with a high degree of kindness and conscience are more likely to be affected by the anchoring, while than subjects with extraversion is much less likely.

      4. Cognitive skills

      Although the impact of cognitive ability on the anchoring effect is controversial, recent studies have found that this phenomenon decreases with people with more cognitive skills; but that in any case, even these were not free from him.

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