Not all Anchors Weigh Equally: Differences Between Numeral and Verbal Anchors

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The anchoring bias is a reliable effect wherein a person’s judgments are affected by initially presented information, but it is unknown specifically why this effect occurs. Research examining this bias suggests that elements of both numeric and semantic priming may be involved. To examine this, the present research used a phenomenon wherein people treat numeric information presented differently in Arabic numeral or verbal formats. We presented participants with one of many forms of an anchor that represented the same value (e.g., twelve hundred or 1,200). Thus, we could examine how a concept’s meaning and its absolute numeric value affect anchoring. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that people respond to Arabic and verbal anchors differently. Experiment 3 showed that these differences occurred largely because people tend to think of numbers in digit format. This suggests that one’s conceptual understanding of the anchored information matters more than its strict numeric value.

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