Anchors Away

2 Nov

No, this post isn’t about boating … it’s about how we make decisions.

Underwater scene with anchorThere is a term used in psychology called ‘anchoring bias.’ What this means is that we humans have a tendency to rely too much on the first trait or piece of information we receive when making a decision. So, it becomes an ‘anchor.’

What? You mean … we don’t make decisions by considering all of the factors before making a choice?

That’s right – – the truth is that your first perception lingers in your mind and influences you more than you realize.

Here’s an example of ‘anchor bias’ at work.

Suppose your job is to guess the percentage of red marbles in a jar the size of a bathtub filled with marbles of ten different colors. And suppose you are asked to draw a number out of a hat to use as a starting point.

Then you are asked to guess:

  1. whether the actual number of red marbles is above or below the number you drew and
  2. to make your best guess of the actual quantity.

Despite the fact that you know that the number you drew out of the hat was arbitrary, research shows that it will significantly affect your guesstimate of the number of red marbles.

So, what does this mean for conflict resolution?

Well, let’s take the negotiation over a salary for a new position within a company.  Suppose the job applicant says that others with his qualifications make between $45,000 and $60,000 and perhaps adds that a similar job in another department was posted starting at $56,000.  In addition to introducing a relevant range, this technique also threw out an ‘anchor.’

Some negotiation experts suggest that at a dollar-based bargaining table, being the first one to ‘anchor’ is both a good offense and defense.

So … anchors away.





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