Confidently Biased: Comparisons With Anchors Bias Estimates And Increase Confidence

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Andrew Smith Ph.D, Associate Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Across a wide variety of situations, exposure to anchors has been shown to bias people’s estimates. What is not known, however, is whether externally provided anchors influence the confidence that people have in their estimates. Our studies had two goals. First, we tested whether exposure to anchors influenced people’s subjective confidence levels (Studies 1 and 2). These studies revealed that people who made estimates after making comparisons with externally provided anchors tended to be more confident in their estimates than people who did not see anchors. The second goal was to test two explanations as to why anchors increase people’s confidence. In Study 3, we tested the explanation that anchors increase confidence because participants thought the anchors provided useful information. In Study 4, we tested the explanation that exposure to anchors causes people to consider a narrower range of plausible values as compared to when not exposed to anchors. Support was found only for the explanation that comparisons with anchors increase confidence because people who are exposed to anchors consider a narrower range of plausible values. Taken together, these studies reveal the powerful influence anchors can have—they not only bias estimates, but also increase people’s confidence in their biased estimates.

Additional Information

Smith, A. R., and Marshall, L. D. (2017). Confidently Biased: Comparisons with Anchors Bias Estimates and Increase Confidence. J. Behav. Dec. Making, 30: 731– 743. doi: 10.1002/bdm.1996. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2016
anchoring effects, anchors, confidence, heuristics, bias

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