The anchoring bias occurs when people tend to rely too heavily on the first piece of information they see. 

The first price, value or thing we see is anchored into memory, then we judge everything else based on that piece of information.

The evidence it works

In 1974 Kahneman and Tversky recruited participants to spin a wheel of fortune that was rigged to stop on either 10 or 65.

When the arrow stopped, they asked the participants to say if they believed the percentage of African countries in the UN was higher or lower than the number on the wheel.

Next, they asked people to estimate what they thought the actual percentage was.

Even though the number on the wheel had no logical relevance to the actual answer, it influenced the participant’s responses:

So, people who landed on 10 guessed around 25%, and those who landed on 65 guessed around 45%. Their minds were anchored to that number of the wheel.

Where it fits in our behavioural model – The ‘means’ METRIC

The three core principles of our Behavioural Model is that every behaviour has to have a motivation, trigger and the means.

The means are the resources to get what you want. This isn’t just money – choosing and buying also costs time and effort, thought and worry.

In theory, the means depend on what’s in short supply. So if we’re short of time, we’ll spend money. If we don’t want to take a risk, we’ll invest more thought. If everyone else is doing one thing, we’d rather join the queue and spend time, than feel like the odd one out.

But our judgement of these things is often flawed. For example, we can only judge numbers in comparison with other numbers and we’re inclined to not waste energy, so the easier something seems the more likely we are to choose it (like joining the queue). Which forms the basis of our Behavioural Model.

The means model is split into six different sections: Money, Effort, Time, Risk, Individuality, and Conscious thought. Which handily spells METRIC.

The anchoring bias falls into the Money category because of people’s tendency to only be able to make a judgement about a price of something in relation to the price of something else. For example, a few hundred pounds more on the value of a car is nothing, but a few pence on the value of litre of petrol is a deal breaker.

How we've used it for clients


In Sharps Bedrooms TV ad we used the anchoring bias by first showing the audience the unappealing alternative to Sharps’ beautiful fitted wardrobes, which is its inadequate freestanding equivalent.

With items stacked on top and underneath, the audience can easily compare this untidy solution with Sharps’ fitted wardrobes, that merge stylishly with the bedroom’s design, leaving no unsightly clutter.

What the this means is that Sharps gives you twice as much storage space.

This campaign led to a significant increase in key metrics.

Other great examples

The anchoring bias helps us live healthier lives

A simple but effective example of anchoring is the “5 a day” push to get people to eat fruit and veg is a great example of this. ‘5’  has little scientific basis as the right amount to eat, but people have latched on to it.

5 a day, Change 4 Life, Anchoring
The 5 a day programme from Change 4 Life

The anchoring bias is commonplace in supermarket advertising

With aisles and aisles of brands to choose from it’s no surprise that for brands like ALDI, anchoring is a go-to behavioural bias for cutting through the competition.

Take ALDI’s ‘Like’ ads for example. They use price comparison to present brands with a higher price first. They do this to anchor the audience’s view on price before presenting the ALDI option, which is a much lower. Which do you choose?

Aldi Likes Brands, Anchoring,
From Aldi's "Aldi Like Brands" TV advert

What is Behavioural Science?

To find out more about how our behavioural model makes marketing more effective, get in touch now.

By James Ballinger

Board Director