Cognitive Processing

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 321–332 | Cite as

Anchor effects in decision making can be reduced by the interaction between goal monitoring and the level of the decision maker’s executive functions

  • Johannes SchiebenerEmail author
  • Elisa Wegmann
  • Mirko Pawlikowski
  • Matthias Brand
Research Report


Models of decision making postulate that interactions between contextual conditions and characteristics of the decision maker determine decision-making performance. We tested this assumption by using a possible positive contextual influence (goals) and a possible negative contextual influence (anchor) in a risky decision-making task (Game of Dice Task, GDT). In this task, making advantageous choices is well known to be closely related to a specific decision maker variable: the individual level of executive functions. One hundred subjects played the GDT in one of four conditions: with self-set goal for final balance (n = 25), with presentation of an anchor (a fictitious Top 10 list, showing high gains of other participants; n = 25), with anchor and goal definition (n = 25), and with neither anchor nor goal setting (n = 25). Subjects in the conditions with anchor made more risky decisions irrespective of the negative feedback, but this anchor effect was influenced by goal monitoring and moderated by the level of the subjects’ executive functions. The findings imply that impacts of situational influences on decision making as they frequently occur in real life depend upon the individual’s cognitive abilities. Anchor effects can be overcome by subjects with good cognitive abilities.


Decision making under risk Game of Dice Task Anchor effect Goal monitoring Executive functions 


  1. Appelt KC, Milch KF, Handgraaf MJJ, Weber EU (2011) The decision making individual differences inventory and guidelines for the study of individual differences in judgment and decision-making research. Judgm Decis Mak 6:252–262Google Scholar
  2. Atkinson JW (1957) Motivational determinants of risk-taking behavior. Psychol Rev 64:357–372. doi: 10.1037/h0043445 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bar-Hillel M (1973) On the subjective probability of compound events. Organ Behav Hum Perform 9:396–406. doi: 10.1016/0030-5073(73)90061-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bayard S, Abril B, Yu H, Scholz S, Carlander B, Dauvilliers Y (2011) Decision making in narcolepsy with cataplexy. Sleep 34:99–104PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bechara A (2011) The somatic marker framework and the neurological basis of decision making. In: Ebstein RP, Shamay-Tsoory S, Chew SH (eds) From DNA to social cognition. Wiley-Blackwell, New York, pp 159–183Google Scholar
  6. Bechara A, Damasio H, Tranel D, Damasio AR (1997) Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy. Science 275:1293–1295. doi: 10.1126/science.275.5304.1293 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bechara A, Damasio H, Damasio AR (2000a) Emotion, decision making and the orbitofrontal cortex. Cereb Cortex 10:295–307. doi: 10.1093/cercor/10.3.295 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bechara A, Tranel D, Damasio H (2000b) Characterization of the decision-making deficit of patients with ventromedial prefrontal cortex lesions. Brain 123:2189–2202. doi: 10.1093/brain/123.11.2189 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bechara A, Dolan S, Denburg N, Hindes A, Anderson SW, Nathan PE (2001) Decision-making deficits, linked to a dysfunctional ventromedial prefrontal cortex, revealed in alcohol and stimulant abusers. Neuropsychologia 39:376–389. doi: 10.1016/S0028-3932(00)00136-6 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bonatti E, Zamarian L, Wagner M, Benke T, Hollosi P, Strubreither W, Delazer M (2008) Making decisions and advising decisions in traumatic brain injury. Cogn Behav Neurol 21:164–175. doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e318184e688 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bond CF, Titus LJ (1983) Social facilitation: a meta-analysis of 241 studies. Psychol Bull 94:265–292. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.94.2.265 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brand M (2008) Does the feedback from previous trials influence current decisions? A study on the role of feedback processing in making decisions under explicit risk conditions. J Neuropsychol 2:431–443. doi: 10.1348/174866407X220607 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brand M, Labudda K, Kalbe E, Hilker R, Emmans D, Fuchs G, Kessler J, Markowitsch HJ (2004) Decision-making impairments in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Behav Neurol 15:77–85PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Brand M, Fujiwara E, Borsutzky S, Kalbe E, Kessler J, Markowitsch HJ (2005a) Decision-making deficits of Korsakoff patients in a new gambling task with explicit rules: associations with executive functions. Neuropsychol 19:267–277. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.19.3.267 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brand M, Kalbe E, Labudda K, Fujiwara E, Kessler J, Markowitsch HJ (2005b) Decision-making impairments in patients with pathological gambling. Psychiatry Res 133:91–99. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2004.10.003 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brand M, Labudda K, Markowitsch HJ (2006) Neuropsychological correlates of decision-making in ambiguous and risky situations. Neural Netw 19:1266–1276. doi: 10.1016/j.neunet.2006.03.001 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brand M, Recknor EC, Grabenhorst F, Bechara A (2007) Decisions under ambiguity and decisions under risk: correlations with executive functions and comparisons of two different gambling tasks with implicit and explicit rules. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 29:86–99. doi: 10.1080/13803390500507196 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Brand M, Heinze K, Labudda K, Markowitsch HJ (2008) The role of strategies in deciding advantageously in ambiguous and risky situations. Cogn Process 9:159–173. doi: 10.1007/s10339-008-0204-4 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Brand M, Laier C, Pawlikowski M, Markowitsch HJ (2009) Decision making with and without feedback: the role of intelligence, strategies, executive functions, and cognitive styles. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 31:984–998. doi: 10.1080/13803390902776860 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Bröder A, Schiffer S (2003) Take The Best versus simultaneous feature matching: probabilistic inferences from memory and effects of representation format. J Exp Psychol Gen 132:277–293. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.132.2.277 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Chapman GB, Johnson EJ (2002) Incorporating the irrelevant: anchors in judgments of belief and value. In: Gilovich T, Griffin D, Kahneman D (eds) Heuristics and biases: the psychology of intuitive judgment, vol 16. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp 120–138CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cohen J, Cohen P, West SG, Aiken LS (2003) Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral science, 3rd edn. Lawrence Erlbaum, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  23. Cokely ET, Kelley CM (2009) Cognitive abilities and superior decision making under risk: a protocol analysis and process model evaluation. Judgm Decis Mak 4:20–33. doi: 10.1016/j.jbankfin.2009.04.001 Google Scholar
  24. De Martino B, Kumaran D, Seymour B, Dolan RJ (2006) Frames, biases, and rational decision-making in the human brain. Science 313:684–687. doi: 10.1126/science.1128356 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Delazer M, Zamarian L, Bonatti E, Walser N, Kuchukhidze G, Bodner T, Benke T, Koppelstaetter F, Trinka E (2011) Decision making under ambiguity in temporal lobe epilepsy: does the location of the underlying structural abnormality matter? Epilepsy Behav 20:34–37. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2010.11.006 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Devine DJ, Kozlowski SWJ (1995) Domain-specific knowledge and task characteristics in decision making. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 64:294–306. doi: 10.1006/obhd.1995.1107 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Dislich FXR, Zinkernagel A, Ortner TM, Schmitt M (2010) Convergence of direct, indirect, and objective risk-taking measures in gambling. J Psychol 218:20–27. doi: 10.1027/0044-3409/a000004 Google Scholar
  28. Drucaroff LJ, Kievit R, Guinjoan SM, Gerschcovich ER, Cerquetti D, Leiguarda R, Cardinali DP, Vigo DE (2011) Higher autonomic activation predicts better performance in Iowa Gambling Task. Cogn Behav Neurol 24:93–98. doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e3182239308 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Duncan J (1986) Disorganisation of behaviour after frontal lobe damage. Cogn Neuropsychol 3:271–290. doi: 10.1080/02643298608253360 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Einhorn HJ, Hogarth RM (1986) Decision making under ambiguity. J Bus 59:S225–S250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Elliot AJ, Fryer JW (2008) The goal construct in psychology. In: Kruglanski AW, Higgins ET (eds) Handbook of motivation science. Guilford Press, New York, pp 235–250. doi: 10.1007/s11031-007-9058-9 Google Scholar
  32. Englich B, Mussweiler T, Strack F (2006) Playing dice with criminal sentences: the influence of irrelevant anchors on experts’ judicial decision making. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 32:188–200. doi: 10.1177/0146167205282152 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Epley N, Gilovich T (2006) The anchoring-and-adjustment heuristic: why the adjustments are insufficient. Psychol Sci 17:311–318. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01704.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Euteneuer F, Schaefer F, Stuermer R, Boucsein W, Timmermann L, Barbe MT, Ebersbach G, Otto J, Kessler J, Kalbe E (2009) Dissociation of decision-making under ambiguity and decision-making under risk in patients with Parkinson’s disease: a neuropsychological and psychophysiological study. Neuropsychologia 47:2882–2890. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2009.06.014 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Festinger L (1954) A theory of social comparison processes. Hum Rel 7:117–140. doi: 10.1177/001872675400700202 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Finucane ML, Lees NB (2005) Decision-making competence of older adults: models and methods. In: National Research Council Workshop on decision-making by older adult, Washington, November 29Google Scholar
  37. Finucane ML, Mertz CK, Slovic P, Schmidt ES (2005) Task complexity and older adults’ decision-making competence. Psychol Aging 20:71–84. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.20.1.71 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gleichgerrcht E, Ibánez A, Roca M, Torralva T, Manes F (2010) Decision-making cognition in neurodegenerative diseases. Nat Rev Neurol 6:611–623. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2010.148 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hassin RR, Bargh JA, Zimerman S (2009) Automatic and flexible: the case of non-conscious goal pursuit. Soc Cogn 27:20–36. doi: 10.1521/soco.2009.27.1.20 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Heath C, Larrick RP, Wu G (1999) Goals as reference points. Cogn Psychol 38:79–109. doi: 10.1006/cogp.1998.0708 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kahneman D (2003) A perspective on judgment and choice: mapping bounded rationality. Am Psychol 58:697–720. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.58.9.697 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kahneman D, Tversky A (1979) Prospect theory: an analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica 47:263–291. doi: 10.2307/1914185 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kivetz R (2003) The effects of effort and intrinsic motivation on risky choice. Mark Sci 22:477–502. doi: 10.1287/mksc.22.4.477.24911 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Knight D, Durham CC, Locke EA (2001) The relationship of team goals, incentives, and efficacy to strategic risk, tactical implementation, and performance. Acad Manag J 44:326–338. doi: 10.2307/3069459 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Kühberger A (1998) The influence of framing on risky decisions: a meta-analysis. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 75:23–55. doi: 10.1006/obhd.1998.2781 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Labudda K, Wolf OT, Markowitsch HJ, Brand M (2007) Decision-making and neuroendocrine responses in pathological gamblers. Psychiatry Res 153:233–243. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2007.02.002 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Levine B, Robertson IH, Clare L, Carter G, Hong J, Wilson BA, Duncan J, Stuss DT (2000) Rehabilitation of executive functioning: an experimental–clinical validation of goal management training. J Int Neuropsychol Soc 6:299–312PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lopes LL, Oden GC (1999) The role of aspiration level in risky choice: a comparison of cumulative prospect theory and SP/A theory. J Math Psychol 43:286–313. doi: 10.1006/jmps.1999.1259 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nelson HE (1976) A modified card sorting test sensitive to frontal lobe defects. Cortex 12:313–324. doi: 10.1080/13854049608406687 PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Norman DA, Shallice T (1986) Attention to action: willed and automatic control of behavior. In: Davidson RJ, Schwartz GE, Shapiro D (eds) Consciousness and self-regulation. Wiley-Blackwell, New York, pp 1–18Google Scholar
  51. Payne JW, Laughhunn DJ, Crum R (1980) Translation of gambles and aspiration level effects in risky choice behavior. Manag Sci 26:1039–1060. doi: 10.1287/mnsc.26.10.1039 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Payne JW, Laughhunn DJ, Crum R (1981) Further tests of aspiration level effects in risky choice behavior. Manag Sci 27:953–958. doi: 10.1287/mnsc.27.8.953 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pervin LA (1989) Goal concepts in personality and social psychology: a historical perspective. In: Pervin LA (ed) Goal concepts in personality and social psychology. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp 1–17Google Scholar
  54. Sanders GS, Baron RS, Moore DL (1978) Distraction and social comparison as mediators of social facilitation effects. J Exp Soc Psychol 14:291–303. doi: 10.1016/0022-1031(78)90017-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schiebener J, Zamarian L, Delazer M, Brand M (2011) Executive functions, categorization of probabilities and learning from feedback: what does really matter for decision-making under explicit risk conditions? J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 33:1025–1039. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2011.595702 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Simon H (1955) A behavioral model of rational choice. Quat J Econ 69:99–118. doi: 10.2307/1884852 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Simon H (1982) Models of bounded rationality. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  58. Slovic P (1987) Perception of risk. Science 236:280–285. doi: 10.1126/science.3563507 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Slovic P, Fischoff B, Lichenstein S (1979) Facts and fears: understanding perceived risk. Policy Practice Health Saf 3:65–102Google Scholar
  60. Smith EE, Jonides J (1999) Storage and executive processes in the frontal lobes. Science 283:1657–1661. doi: 10.1126/science.283.5408.1657 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Smith K, Dickhaut J, McCabe K, Pardo JV (2002) Neuronal substrates for choice under ambiguity, risk, gains, and losses. Manag Sci 48:711–718. doi: 10.1287/mnsc.48.6.711.194 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Starcke K, Brand M (2012) Decision making under stress: a selective review. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 36:1228–1248. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.02.003 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Starcke K, Pawlikowski M, Wolf OT, Altstötter-Gleich C, Brand M (2011) Decision making under risk conditions is susceptible to interference by a secondary executive task. Cogn Process 12:177–182. doi: 10.1007/s10339-010-0387-3 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Suls J, Martin R, Wheeler L (2002) Social comparison: why, with whom, and with what effect? Curr Dir Psychol Sci 11:159–163. doi: 10.1111/1467-8721.00191 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Toplak ME, Sorge GB, Benoit A, West RF, Stanovich KE (2010) Decision-making and cognitive abilities: a review of associations between Iowa Gambling Task performance, executive functions, and intelligence. Clin Psychol Rev 30:562–581. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2010.04.002 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Turnbull OH, Evans CE, Bunce A, Carzolio B, O’Connor J (2005) Emotion-based learning and central executive resources: an investigation of intuition and the Iowa Gambling Task. Brain Cogn 57:244–247. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2004.08.053 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Tversky A, Kahneman D (1974) Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases. Science 185:1124–1131. doi: 10.1126/science.185.4157.1124 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wright WF, Anderson U (1989) Effects of situation familiarity and financial incentives on use of the anchoring and adjustment heuristic for probability assessment. Organ Behav Hum Decis Process 44:68–82. doi: 10.1016/0749-5978(89)90035-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Youssef F, Dookeeram K, Basdeo V, Francis E, Doman M, Mamed D, Maloo S, Degannes J, Dobo L, Ditshotlo P, Legall G (2011) Stress alters personal moral decision making. Psychoneuroendocrinology 37:491–498. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.07.017 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zajonc RB (1965) Social facilitation. Science 149:269–274. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.08.017 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zamarian L, Sinz H, Bonatti E, Gamboz N, Delazer M (2008) Normal aging affects decisions under ambiguity, but not decisions under risk. Neuropsychol 22:645–657. doi: 10.1037/0894-4105.22.5.645 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Schiebener
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elisa Wegmann
    • 1
  • Mirko Pawlikowski
    • 1
  • Matthias Brand
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.General Psychology: CognitionUniversity of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany
  2. 2.Erwin L. Hahn Institute for Magnetic Resonance ImagingEssenGermany

Personalised recommendations