Trapped by a First Hypothesis

Trapped by a First Hypothesis

In this paper we propose that exposure to rude behaviors can affect judgement in critical situations by enhancing the tendency to engage in anchoring, one of the most robust and widespread cognitive biases. We present theory and two interventions focused on countering the tendency to exhibit an anchoring bias following exposure to rudeness. Integrating the self-immersion framework with the selective accessibility model, we develop and test a model which describes the processes that lead to anchoring, arguing that rudeness-induced negative arousal narrows perspectives in a manner which makes anchoring more likely.

Across four experimental studies we test the impact of exposure to rudeness on anchoring as manifested in a variety of tasks (e.g., medical diagnosis, judgement tasks, negotiation). Study 1 showed that rudeness increased anchoring of anesthesiologists by negatively influencing their ability to shift away from an initial incorrect diagnosis, and Study 2 replicated these results by showing that rudeness affected anchoring in common judgement tasks. In both studies, we also find that perspective taking (measured as an individual difference in Study 1 and manipulated in Study 2) countered the relationship between rudeness and negative arousal, and subsequently anchoring. In Studies 3 and 4 we show that information elaboration can also counter the effect of rudeness on anchoring in both a medical diagnosis situation (Study 3) and in a negotiation context (Study 4).

Combined, these four studies show that encounters with rudeness can increase anchoring, but that helping individuals avoid immersing themselves in the aversive event can mitigate this problem.

Research Team: Cooper, B., Giordano, C.R., Erez, A., Foulk, T.A., Reed, H. & Berg, K.
Current Status: Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Applied Psychology

Binyamin Cooper
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

My research interests include…