I have this impression that if you ask respondents in a survey, questions such as "do you like the item X/ person X" or "which one of the two variations do you like more", or "what in particular would you like about the item X/ person X", etc, you would get a lot of bias and rationalizations. That is, "say vs think vs do" would be extremely disparate.

At the same time, I would expect negative questions such as "is there something you dislike about the item X" or "could you list top three shortcomings of the item X/ person X", etc, to render quite objective responses; I would expect strong consistency between what respondents would say compared to what they actually think or feel and then compared to what they would actually do.

(Of course, I exclude some extreme cases of social desirability.)

Given that I am speaking about my subjective impressions, based on my personal limited observations, I would like to ask, is there such a pattern indeed and if so, how could it be possibly explained?

  • $\begingroup$ am i right in assuming, that you ask, whether a positive framing vs. a negative framing of questions will result in a smaller gab between "doing" vs. "attitude"? $\endgroup$
    – bucky
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ @ bucky - I am not sure what you mean by "attitude". Let me resort to an example to what I mean: dating survey among females, question variation a) "What do you like in men?" - I'd expect answers such as "intelligence, sense of humour, chivalry"; question variation b) "What do you dislike in men" - I'd expect answers such as "bad hygiene, insecurity, immaturity" and I'd expect the latter to be closer to what the females really think and how they really behave in a dating situation as opposed to what they say, and opposed to how they think they behave in the same situation. $\endgroup$
    – drabsv
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


I think your examples can be explained with the Anchoring bias (aslo know as focalism).

Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the "anchor") when making decisions. During decision making, anchoring occurs when individuals use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments. Once an anchor is set, other judgments are made by adjusting away from that anchor, and there is a bias toward interpreting other information around the anchor.

A theory that explains anchoring is selective accessibility.

selective accessibility proposes that when given an anchor, a judge (i.e. a person making some judgment) will evaluate the hypothesis that the anchor is a suitable answer. Assuming it is not, the judge moves on to another guess, but not before accessing all the relevant attributes of the anchor itself. Then, when evaluating the new answer, the judge looks for ways in which it is similar to the anchor, resulting in the anchoring effect.

The Anchoring is a type of priming. The following extract is from Brain Bugs by Dean Buonomano :

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Below is the definition of priming :

Priming is a technique whereby exposure to one stimulus influences a response to a subsequent stimulus, without conscious guidance or intention. For example, the word NURSE is recognized more quickly following the word DOCTOR than following the word BREAD. Priming can be perceptual, semantic, or conceptual.


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