Anchoring Bias

What is Anchoring Bias?

Anchoring Bias is a tricky part of our thinking process. It happens when the first bit of information we get sticks in our mind and influences how we think about things afterward. Imagine you’re trying to figure out how much something should cost or what decision to make, and the first number or opinion you hear sets the stage for your thinking, even if it’s not the best starting point.

For example, if a friend tells you they saw a movie and thought it was really scary, you might go into the movie expecting to be frightened, even if you usually don’t get scared easily. That first idea, the “anchor,” has a way of holding your thoughts in place, which can make it hard to look at things differently.

How Does Anchoring Bias Affect Us?

Anchoring Bias is part of our everyday lives, and it can influence us in lots of different ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Shopping Discounts: When you see a price tag that says “Was $100, Now $50,” the original price of $100 serves as the anchor. This makes the new price of $50 seem like a big deal because you’re comparing it to the first price you saw, even if $50 is just a regular price.
  • First Impressions: If the first thing you hear about someone is that they can be a little rude, that becomes your anchor. You might think of them as rude more often, even if they are nice most of the time because the first thing you learned about them was negative.
  • Salary Negotiations: If an employer suggests a starting salary that’s lower than you expected, that number sets the anchor. When you try to negotiate for a higher salary, your mind might still be stuck on the low number they first mentioned, making it difficult to ask for what you actually want.
  • Real Estate Prices: If a house is up for sale with a high price tag, and then the price is lowered, you might think you’re getting a great deal because of the initial higher price. You’re anchoring on that first number, even if the house is still more expensive than what it’s worth.
  • Evaluating Choices: Say you’re looking at laptops and you find one that claims to have “up to 12 hours” of battery life. You might feel like you got less than expected if it only lasts 7 hours, because your anchor is the “up to 12 hours” claim, even if 7 hours is enough for you.

In the scenario with Jenny buying a car, she’s influenced by the anchor of the $25,000 price at the first dealership. That number sticks in her mind, making her think the car might be higher quality or more in demand, which could lead her to overvalue it compared to the similar, cheaper car she finds afterward.

Dealing with Anchoring Bias

To fight against the pull of the anchor, there are strategies you can use:

  • Stay informed. If you know a lot about what you’re dealing with, like knowing the average prices of cars or laptops, you’ll be less tempted to rely on just the first number you hear.
  • Think of different angles. Challenge yourself by asking, “What if I heard a different number first? Would I still think this is a good deal or the right choice?”
  • Plan ahead. Before you get into a situation where you have to decide or negotiate, figure out what you want and what you’re willing to accept. This can help you stay focused and not get pulled in by an anchor.
  • See the big picture. Don’t just jump to a conclusion based on the first bit of information. Try to gather more facts and details that can give you a better understanding.
  • Seek out opinions. Talk to different people, like friends, family, or professionals. They can give you new viewpoints that aren’t tied to that first piece of information.

Related Topics and Explanations

Anchoring Bias isn’t the only thing that can sway our decisions. Here are some other concepts that are related:

  • Confirmation Bias: This happens when we look for information that agrees with what we already think or want to believe. If we think we’ve found a good deal because of an anchor, we might ignore signs that it’s not as great as we thought.
  • Framing Effect: The way information is given to us can change how we see things. For example, something being “95% fat-free” sounds better than saying it has “5% fat,” even though they mean the same thing. It’s all in how the information is framed or presented.
  • Overconfidence Effect: This is when we are too sure of our own ideas or initial guesses. Because of overconfidence, we might trust our anchored beliefs even more, making it hard to see new information objectively.

Importance of Understanding Anchoring Bias

Understanding Anchoring Bias is crucial because it can have a big impact on our lives. If we’re not careful, it can lead us to make choices that aren’t in our best interest, spend more money than we should, or judge situations and people unfairly. By recognizing when an anchor is affecting us, we can try to think more openly and make decisions that are based on all the information, not just the first thing we heard.

For the average person, this means better purchasing decisions, fairer judgments of others, and more successful negotiations. In everyday life, being mindful of Anchoring Bias can help us be more thoughtful, save money, and treat people more kindly.


Anchoring Bias is an invisible influence that can guide our choices and thinking, often without us realizing it. By understanding this concept, we can uncover the reasons behind our decisions and work to make choices that are truly informed and fair. It’s about breaking free from that first piece of information, the anchor, and learning to navigate with a clear mind. This way, we make better decisions that reflect what we really want and need.