The mechanism of non-numerical anchoring heuristic based on magnitude priming: is it just the basic anchoring effect in disguise?

Open access

Abstract

The anchoring heuristic refers to phenomena when an arbitrary number affects subsequent numerical estimations. Oppenheimer, LeBoeuf and Brewer (2008) showed that it is not necessary for the anchor to be a numerical value (i.e., the act of drawing lines of different length effectively shifts numerical estimations), yet current models describing the anchoring heuristic do not fully account for the mechanism of non-numerical anchoring. However, this effect shows similarity to the basic anchoring effect - obtained without the comparative question and based on the availability of the given number in working memory. In this study, we attempt to verify whether those two effect share the same psychological mechanism. In Experiment 1, we show that non-numerical anchoring based on magnitude priming cannot be obtained when the lines are just observed. The examined mechanism proves to be dependent on the act of drawing, displaying limitations similar to the basic anchoring effect, previously pointed out by Brewer and Chapman (2002). By using the same numerical anchors in different size formats, in Experiment 2 we showed that anchoring based on magnitude priming occurs even when the numerical values do not affect the estimations. The results are discussed in the light of a possible mechanism that underlies the investigated effect.

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Polish Psychological Bulletin

The Journal of Committee for Psychological Sciences of Polish Academy of Sciences

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