The effects of anchor-based semantic priming on judgmental anchoring

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This dissertation proposes a unified conceptualization of a set of seemingly distinct judgmental anchoring effects (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974), including numeric effects (Wilson, Houston, Etling, & Brekke, 1996), semantic effects (e.g., Strack & Mussweiler, 1997) as well as implausible anchoring effects (e.g., Mussweiler & Strack, 2001a). These effects are viewed as special cases of a general, anchor-based, semantic priming mechanism. Specifically, during comparisons between the judgmental target and the anchor, judges are hypothesized to be primed with general semantic notions directly related to the anchor value. These anchor-based semantics, in turn, are hypothesized to mediate anchoring effects. Study 1 supported the hypothesis that anchor-based semantics may be responsible for producing anchoring effects by showing that considerations of implausible (vs. plausible) anchors are associated with higher levels of lexical activation of anchor-related words (measured in a lexical decision task). This finding maps on to a larger anchoring effect obtained in the implausible vs. plausible anchoring condition. In study 2, participants were primed directly with anchor related words, resulting in a 'mimicked' anchoring effect. Study 3 showed that associatively activated concepts, primed via a conditional rule, produce anchoring effects when the target and dimension of the judgment change between the comparative and absolute questions. Study 4 failed to support the prediction that a target change between a comparative task and related absolute numerical estimate, involving the same content domain, inhibits anchoring. Study 5 varied the typical anchoring paradigm by holding the numerical anchor constant and varying the target of the comparative question, producing a purely semantic anchoring effect. Finally, study 6 replicated and extended the findings obtained in study 5, providing additional evidence (from a lexical decision task) that anchor-based semantic notions produce anchoring effects. General discussion focuses on distinctions between the present theory and the existing models of anchoring within the social judgment literature.