Book Definition: A faulty heuristic caused by basing (anchoring) an estimate on a completely unrelated quantity.

In Your Own Words


  • Focusing too much on one specific detail when there is much more to be seen.
  • When you base a judgment on a familiar reference point that is incomplete or irrelevant to the problem being solved.
  • Being too focused on one detail to look at the big picture
  • "See the forest for the trees" (Looking at the big picture)

Examples/Functions


  • From the book: When someone sees the problem 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = ?, they tend to think that the answer is higher than the answer to 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8, because it starts with a larger number.
  • While cleaning your house, you spend the majority of your time trying to remove a small stain on the carpet, ignoring the clutter that needs to be picked up, rooms that need to be vacuumed, furniture that needs dusting, etc.
  • A person looking to buy a used car, and focusing excessively on the odometer reading and the year of the car, rather than the whole thing.
  • A person on a diet may only eat foods with low calorie counts, while ignoring the high amounts of fat and carbohydrates the foods may still contain.
  • Getting ready for Thanksgiving, you spend all your time preparing the turkey and forget about the rest of the meal.
  • A person purchasing a house focuses on how big the basement is only and not the rest of the house.
  • When someone is doing a powerpoint project and they focus all of their attention on the background color and not the actual content.
  • When you are writing an essay and you can't figure out how to re-write a sentence, you are not focusing on the whole essay but that one sentence.
  • Making a necklace, you are so focused on putting the beads in the correct order that you forget to tie a knot at the end of the string and the moment you pick it up it falls apart.
  • In Temple Run you are so focused on trying to collect coins that you forget about the obstacles and instead of jumping over the tree stump, you trip and the monkeys eat you.
  • When people commented on Mr. Wray's video saying it was awful just because he had a spelling mistake and ignored the valuable information it provided.
  • When grading a paper, a teacher focuses so much on the many typos instead of realizing the content is actually pretty good.

Additional Resources


  1. http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/a/anchoring.htm
  2. Mr. Wray's Cognitive Bias VideoSong: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RsbmjNLQkc