I've recently been dabbling in the behavioral literature, reading about cognitive biases such an anchoring, when one of my friends asked me how this phenomenon differed from the classical cognitive psychology construct of priming. It struck me as odd that I couldn't form an explanation that convincingly tweezed them apart: both appear to be about prior exposure to a stimulus changing the reaction to subsequent stimuli. All I can come up with is that anchoring is generally used in a more narrow context while priming seems more like an umbrella term. That, or they could just be field specific terms for the same underlying cognitive processes. Is there some consensus as to how anchoring and priming are related?

One relevant paper I've found suggests that priming (along with hypothesis testing) constitute the underlying mechanisms that operate within the anchoring paradigm. However, this is just one (rather old) paper, so I think question as to the consensus viewpoint is still valid.


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Priming: Stimulus A influences perception/processing of stimulus B. E.g. you walk past an Italian restaurant and smell pizza. When you enter the supermarket and consider what you want to make for dinner, you might be more strongly inclined to bake a pizza, then when you hadn't smelled the delectable pizza from the restaurant.

Anchoring: The first information in a series if informations influences your processing of the whole of this information. E.g. if you are asked to guess (not calculate) the result of 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 you might guess a higher number compared to your guess of the result for 1 x 2 x 3 x 4 x 5 x 6 x 7 x 8, because the first number in that calculation (1 versus 8) influences your judgment.

So the theoretical difference is that while in priming one stimulus influences the processing of another, later stimulus, in anchoring the form of the beginning of the information influences the processing of the whole information.

Nevertheless it has been suggested that anchoring is caused by an underlying priming (Mussweiler & Strack, 1999; from the abstract):

Results of four studies support the notion that anchoring effects are mediated by mechanisms of hypothesis-consistent testing and semantic priming. ... Study 4 suggests that self-generation of knowledge contributes to the robustness of the effect, thus resolving the seeming inconsistency that anchoring effects are at the same time remarkably robust and mediated by typically fragile semantic priming mechanisms.



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