The Effect of Accuracy Motivation on Anchoring and Adjustment: Do People Adjust from Provided Anchors?
dual process theories
Cognition and Perception
Increasing accuracy motivation (e.g., by providing monetary incentives for accuracy) often fails to increase adjustment away from provided anchors, a result that has led researchers to conclude that people do not effortfully adjust away from such anchors. We challenge this conclusion. First, we show that people are typically uncertain about which way to adjust from provided anchors and that this uncertainty often causes people to believe that they have initially adjusted too far away from such anchors (Studies 1a and 1b). Then, we show that although accuracy motivation fails to increase the gap between anchors and final estimates when people are uncertain about the direction of adjustment, accuracy motivation does increase anchor–estimate gaps when people are certain about the direction of adjustment, and that this is true regardless of whether the anchors are provided or self-generated (Studies 2, 3a, 3b, and 5). These results suggest that people do effortfully adjust away from provided anchors but that uncertainty about the direction of adjustment makes that adjustment harder to detect than previously assumed. This conclusion has important theoretical implications, suggesting that currently emphasized distinctions between anchor types (self-generated vs. provided) are not fundamental and that ostensibly competing theories of anchoring (selective accessibility and anchoring-and-adjustment) are complementary.