How does the anchoring bias influence the mind?

While cognitive biases can function as “mental shortcuts,” they can also harm us when making a decision. The anchoring bias leaves us tied to the first information.

Last update: September 14, 2022

Let’s imagine this situation: two people receive the same information and when asked what they think of it, they elaborate and make a completely different reading. It is that the anchoring bias has appeared.

What determines the dissimilar interpretation? In addition to previous experiences, there are often certain cognitive biases that guide the way we understand the world and what surrounds us.

What is anchoring bias?

This is part of cognitive biases, a concept that is widely discussed in cognitive therapy and also extensively worked on by Daniel Kahneman (psychologist and Nobel laureate in economics) and Amos Tversky (cognitive psychologist). Bias refers to a systematic misinterpretation of information.

As its name implies, the anchoring bias refers to that information or first interpretation that we receive or make about a fact and on which we remain. In other words, this data works as an anchor, as a starting point around which everything that happens revolves. a posteriori.

In turn, the anchoring bias also influences our attitude and the meaning we give to things. We predispose ourselves towards a way of seeing using a single lens, dismissing later contributions.

This can block receptivity, listening, and sharing with other people. We get choosytrying to fit the data in terms similar to the one that was given to us in the first place.

Another factor to take into account is that it can distort the information. In the field of politics or the market, for example, it is possible to present a number that is not real, just to establish a position. If we state in advance that the expected loss of a trade will be 1,000 euros and then show that it was only 450 euros, I get a feeling that everything was better than expected.

In economics and marketing, the bias in favor of companies is used. The offers, many times are not.

Practical applications

This type of bias is very present in the field of marketing and sales. Let’s think of an example.

We go to buy a pair of pants and on the label we see that the price stands out at 120 euros. It seems excessive to us. However, later the seller tells us that it has a value of 35 euros for reduction. Automatically, the price seems tempting and the purchase is possible.

This is due to anchoring bias. We were guided by the first price we saw, even if from the beginning that price was not reasonable. It’s a bias because of that; we accommodate ourselves to information without asking ourselves questions.

Finally, it is true that cognitive biases often operate to save our mental effort. That is, they prevent us from overanalyzing an event.

This benefit can also mean a risk if we are not aware of it.. We might act more impulsively or automatically. It is about recognizing that these biases exist, are present and that they could influence decisions. By being aware of this, we can avoid acting recklessly.



How to avoid anchoring bias?

Like any biased or distorted reading, anchoring bias can lead us to make mistakes or miss opportunities. That is why we can apply some measures to avoid falling into it:

  • Ask yourself questions that question that starting point or anchor. How likely are you to be overvaluing the information? How else could you enrich this idea? Is there a chance that this will be different in someone else’s eyes? In this way, it seeks to avoid logical and linear thinking to expand the diversity of factors at stake.
  • Check with someone else. You can tell a third party that is not linked to the situation that worries you. In this way, by listening to his opinion, you may detect elements that you were overlooking. Many times it happens that, by explaining it out loud, we also acquire another expectation.
  • Analyze and think before making a decision. For example, you can go back to previous experiences and analyze how they turned out when you let yourself be guided by that first impression.
Consult with a friend the situation. In the conversation you can get another perspective.


That the tree does not cover the forest

As the famous saying goes, the anchoring bias leads us to stay with a partial, fragmented and incomplete reading. As if it were a first impression that later is impossible to change.

However, it also challenges us to think beyond. We must know that life goes through nuances and not always the first data or the first information is the definitive one. You have to retrace a belief or idea to make better decisions.

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