Thiagi Group

The Anchor Effect

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10 - 202 + Low

This jolt demonstrates how the natural human tendency of becoming heavily attached to a starting value can influence our decision making.
The participants work with two different versions of the same questionnaire. One version asks a series of questions that provide low anchor values, while the other version provides high anchor values. The debriefing discussion examines how anchoring affects our decision making.



To demonstrate how our decision making can be easily influenced by numerical anchoring.





    Make copies of both versions of the handout. Arrange them in a single pile, alternating between the two versions.


    Distribute the handout. Give one copy of the handout to each participant. Be careful not to reveal that there are two different versions of the handout. Use a single stack of handouts (as suggested above) containing both versions rather than distributing the handouts from separate stacks.

    Give instructions. As a piece of misdirection, inform the participants that they are taking part in a pilot test of a general-knowledge questionnaire. Tell the participants to work independently. Ask the participants to read the questions and write their answers on the handout. Wait about 2 minutes for them to complete the work.

    Poll the Participants. Ask the following questions in your own words:

    • How many of you knew the answers to the first five questions?
    • How many of you knew the answer to the last question, “How many countries are there in Africa?”
    • How many guessed the answer to that question? How many of you guessed the answer to the last question to be 25 or less? How many of you guessed the answer to the last question to be 75 or more?

    Announce the correct answer: There are 47 African countries.

    Check the impact of the handouts. Reveal the secret that there were two versions of the handout and only the last question was the same. Choose a few participants to read samples of the questions that were asked on each handout and point out the differences.


    More of the participants with the lower anchor values would have guessed that the number of countries in Africa is fewer, compared to the participants with the higher anchor values.

    Conduct a discussion to emphasize how the responses to the first five questions provided an anchor value influencing the estimate for the final question.

    Ask the participants how and where the anchoring phenomenon may bias them in other decision-making situations.

    • What other decisions do we make that may be influenced by framing?
    • What are some examples of how the framing effect is used to manipulate decisionmaking?
    • What can we do to reduce the effects of framing when making a decision?

    Learning Point

    The effects of anchoring influence all our real-world judgements in all domains that include financial, romantic, professional, and gastronomic decisions.

    You can learn more about the effects of anchoring by searching the Internet for research done by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahnemen.


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    • Language for non-native speakers may be too difficult, e.g., "bi-centennials" or "suits in card deck". Consider exchanging for easier vocabulary.

      almost 6 years ago