Over the last decade, researchers have debated whether anchoring effects are the result of semantic or numeric priming. The present study tested both hypotheses. In four experiments involving a sensory detection task, participants first made a relative confidence judgment by deciding whether they were more or less confident than an anchor value in the correctness of their decision. Subsequently, they expressed an absolute level of confidence. In two of these experiments, the relative confidence anchor values represented the midpoints between the absolute confidence scale values, which were either explicitly numeric or semantic, nonnumeric representations of magnitude. In two other experiments, the anchor values were drawn from a scale modally different from that used to express the absolute confidence (i.e., nonnumeric and numeric, respectively, or vice versa). Regardless of the nature of the anchors, the mean confidence ratings revealed anchoring effects only when the relative and absolute confidence values were drawn from identical scales. Together, the results of these four experiments limit the conditions under which both numeric and semantic priming would be expected to lead to anchoring effects.

Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Department of Psychology

Carroll, S.R. (Steven R.), Petrusic, W.M. (William M.), & Leth-Steensen, C. (2009). Anchoring effects in the judgment of confidence: Semantic or numeric priming?. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 71(2), 297–307. doi:10.3758/APP.71.2.297