The anchoring effect
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J. C. Penney thought it was a smart move to eliminate coupons and instead create “everyday low pricing.” Too bad they weren’t aware of the power of the anchoring effect. When sales slid big time, they got the message. They’ve now reversed their policy and customers are returning. We need that anchor number to inform us that we’re getting a bargain.
The anchoring effect influences us in many areas, not just money. What’s an acceptable curfew for a 16-year-old? If you had to be home by 11 p.m. on a weekend evening, a 1a.m. curfew won’t feel right, even if “all the kids are doing it.”
If one of your parents died at age 52, living to 82 will feel like a real bonus to you. But if your parent died at 82 and you’re diagnosed with a fatal disease at 52, boy, will you feel let down.
If a husband is doing 10 times more housework than his dad ever did, he may feel entitled to a “best husband of the year” award from his wife. Imagine his surprise then, when his wife berates him for not doing enough. What’s going on here? Blame it on the anchoring effect. His anchor is what his dad used to do. Her anchor is the amount of housework she does. Fair is fair, she says. After all, I’m working full time too.
One last example. If you’re “in therapy,” finding it incredibly helpful in alleviating your anxiety and enhancing your self-confidence, you may still decide to keep your therapy a secret from your parents. Why? Because they are anchored in the belief that only “crazy” people seek therapy. And who wants to be thought of as “crazy?”
Now that you appreciate the power of the anchoring effect, be smart. Take into account not only your initial thought, but also other relevant ones that will expand and enhance your decision-making.
Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice that works with individuals, families and couples. Contact her at DrSapadin@aol.com Subscribe to her free e-newsletter at www.PsychWisdom.com