The Beehive Encyclopaedia: Anchoring Effect

The anchoring effect, also known as anchoring bias, is a concept which describes the human tendency to rely on a first piece of information encountered (the “anchor”) when forming opinions and making decisions, without investigating that information further. Once an anchor is set, subsequent judgments are made in relation to that anchor, and there is a bias toward interpreting other information around that reference.

It is possible that, to quickly feel gaps in our knowledge, our brains learned to rely on other people’s references. A study by psychologists F. Strack and T. Mussweiler published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology[1] found out that, when asked, people that had been told Mahatma Gandhi died at 140 thought he actually lived longer than those who had been told he died at age 9, even if both groups could easily guess the information was fake. Strikingly, yet another study published by Journal of Experimental Psychology, called “Knowledge Does Not Protect Against Illusory Truth”,[2] found people demonstrate knowledge neglect, or the failure to rely on their very own knowledge – if the false information is repeated often enough we may as well end up believing it.[3] 

Understanding the anchor effect can help us become more aware of their biases and may lead to more rational choices.

[1] Strack, Fritz; Mussweiler, Thomas. “Explaining the enigmatic anchoring effect: Mechanisms of selective accessibility”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1997. 73 (3): 437–446. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.3.437. S2CID 1095326

[2] Fazio, Lisa K; Brashier, Nadia M; Payne, B. Kieth; Marsh, Elizabeth J. Knowledge Does Not Protect Against Illusory Truth. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2015, Vol. 144, No. 5, 993–1002

[3] Bacon, Frederick. Credibility of repeated statements: Memory for trivia. Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition, 1979. 5. 241-252. Credibility-of-repeated-statements-Memory-for-trivia.pdf (

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