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Anchoring Bias

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Anchoring Bias: Find the plan that's right for you

People can't help making decisions by comparing or contrasting with one piece of information - the anchor. Can this bias help your design?

Feb 19 3 min read Patterns

Think about the last shoes you bought. Was it fair, the price? I mean, think: did you buy it expensive, cheap, or normal? Whatever your answer, hold it one sec, what makes you so judge?

How much would you rather pay for the pair? What would be a good price?

Since inception, Udemy has used anchoring bias to lure millions of students to its online courses.

Anchoring bias

Did you struggle to answer what a good price would be? Or if not, did you base what you paid on some other amount for justification?

In either case, while we may pay what we believe is fair enough, and the typical merchant never wants to lose margins, our belief is always anchored on some other number or amount.

Studies show that we’re mostly not conscious that we’re anchoring our buying decision on a number or “piece of information” we recently received. But still, sometimes, we deliberately judge our negotiation as fair when we compare it to another figure or value.

So we are as guilty as charged because of anchoring bias.

Anchoring occurs when, during decision making, an individual relies on an initial piece of information [the anchor] to make subsequent judgments. Once the value of [the] anchor is set, all future negotiations, arguments, estimates, etc. are discussed in relation to the anchor.

~ Wikipedia

What is more, we cannot avoid anchoring as much as we don’t know why we do so. This is another “it’s just the way it is with humans”.

Obama's Organizing for Action donation page used anchoring in several ways: 1) it is stated that most people donate $15 2) other suitable amounts are presented. (Source: UI-Patterns)

How to use anchoring

  1. Pricing: Did you notice the Udemy screenshot at the intro? Look, I’ve bought 70+ courses on Udemy, none of which has been less than $99 (most of them priced $199). Yet, never have I paid more than $9.99 per course! O, I remember once when I paid $20 for a course - I couldn’t wait for a deeper discount. Only once. We’ve praised the online giant as the best for feverishly giving the deepest discounts because anchoring. You, though?

    When you design a pricing table, layer all price plans closer enough to the eyes to catch all, but make the biggest amount more prominent - the rest will begin to look like a bargain. Then announce “Find the plan that’s right for you”. Needless to say, also make original amounts, with less prominence, sit side-by-side discounted amounts.

    Take a look at the Obama Organizing for Action screenshot: see how people would’ve been anchored first at $15, then $1,000. Yep, someone would easily say “O, some people gave $1,000? But most people are doing $15, so, ugh…” And you have an idea what they could decide from there on about how much to pitch in.

  2. Easy Navigation: Even if it’s an ecommerce system you’re designing, present one simple navigation. Be more like Google.com or Apple, not Amazon.com. That’s why God created search!

    Simplicity should apply to whatever part of your system people will first land on - let them have a great first impression, because they will anchor the rest of there experience on that. If it’s good good, bad bad.

Closing thoughts

You may not easily go wrong with the anchoring persuasive pattern in your design. I think your design would be less effective if you didn’t provide an anchor that can influence people’s decision. Because people have come to expect it - you’re making the decision-making easier for them.

Nonetheless, caution should be taken not to overwhelm users with options or quote the anchor so high they eventually feel cheated (you know, buyer’s remorse) and hate you for it. Your job is to persuade, not dissuade.


Sources:

  1. Anchoring (Design Patterns), UI-Patterns, ui-patterns.com, accessed Feb 6, 2019.

  2. Anchoring, Wikipedia, wikipedia.com, accessed Feb 6, 2019.

  3. How Anchoring Bias Psychology Affects Decision Making, Verywell Mind, VerywellMind.com, accessed Feb 6, 2019.

  4. The Effects of Anchoring Bias on Human Behavior, Thoughthub, Thoughthub.com, accessed Feb 8, 2019.

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