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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
JOHNSON, M.C. (1998). Anchoring Effects in Terms of College Exams and Final Course Scores. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 1. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved December 9, 2023 .

Anchoring Effects in Terms of College Exams and Final Course Scores
Missouri Western State University Department of

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
The differences in grade point averages were measured among students with either high, above average, below average, or low first test scores in college classes. The anchoring effects were determined by the group or category of which the students’ first test score was determinative. Their group was determined by a quartile system in which the grade of the first test was placed in the top twenty-five, second twenty-five, third twenty-five, or lower twenty-five percent of the class. Of those groups, the overall group averages were calculated to determine whether or not they would show signs of improvement or reduction of overall test averages. The results indicated that the higher group (along with the above average, and below average groups) decreases significantly, although less reduction was found in the above average and even more less in the below average. More importantly, the only increase in overall group mean score was found in the low test group. The finding are congruent with the anchoring theory and support the position that individual first test scores are important factors in overall performance.

A growing body of research has indicated that variations in anchoring can be used

to identify a person or group of persons’ performance to a related topic ( e.g., Whyte &

Sebenius, 1997; Chapman & Bronstein, 1996; Jacowitz & Kahneman, 1995). Much of

today’s research is influenced by what has been termed anchoring effects (Cowart, 1994;

Sawyer & Wesenten, 1994; Mori & Ward, 1995). Anchoring maintains that the ending

effects of a non-predetermined outcome may be related to a previous acceptance of that

outcome. Therefore, an acceptance of an outcome may enhance or decrease a person’s

ability to perform that task.

Sawyer and Weseten (1997) wrote that the major effect of anchoring is not just the

estimation of the complexity, but more importantly the discrimination of a problem.

Subjects tend to show patterns of discrimination in problem solving skills. When told to

solve a problem, they not only judge the complexity of a problem, they consider all the

extremes rather than consider a solution to a propose ending. In other words, subjects use

early anchoring technique to determine their estimation of the proposed task.

Jacowitz and Kahneman (1995) argue that such early estimations may be a form

of “misleading goals” (page 1163). Those who readily set higher goals may, in some way,

be effortlessly effecting judgments of others (Chapman & Bronstein, 1996). Chapman and

Bronstein (1996) found that people in personnel injury cases will usually get more from

the verdict if they simply ask for more in the proposal of their case. Even if the

defendant’s party settles out of court, the plaintiff will receive more capital if he or she just

asks for more in the beginning

In 1996, Ritov studied the effects of anchoring by conducted a study that looked at

competitive market negations in a simulated setting. He found that initial offers for both

the buyer and the seller were highly effective in the final profit of the negotiation. Those

who set elevated prices as the seller could effect the final outcome. For example, we pay

a dollar a gallon for gasoline when it also costs us a dollar for sixteen ounces of our

favorite soft-drink. When two things are anchored together like that, it makes it easy to

manipulate the decision of either the buyer or the seller. Ritov (1996) also found that “the

role of experience was examined and the joint profit was found to increase with learning,

stemming from improved value of the initial offer from the perspective of the

non-initiator” (p. 24).

Anchoring in terms of possible answers were studied by Wilson, Houston, and

others in 1996. They gave an anchor as a possible answer to a target question and found

that uninformative numerical anchors effect the judgment even when people are not asked

to compare this number to the target value(page 401). It just shows that anchoring

effects the way we perceive a situation to be even if such material is unrelated.

One of the most effective studies on anchoring accord in the fall of 1991. Two

students, Switzer and Sneizek, at Clemson University calculated the effects of anchoring

on the effort of performance judgments. Results indicated that both relevant and

irrelevant information have strong anchoring effects on effort and performance judgments.

If it is assumed that anchoring effects are tightly correlated with predetermining

factors such as hypothetical logic, then test scores of students should be predetermining

also. I hope to show that the first test scores of a group will be effected by the opinion

that his or her score is high or low compared to others in the class. If they believe their

score to be higher or lower than others, then the final outcome of the class will be

consequently higher or lower.


I decided to chose one hundred and seventy-six subjects for this study. These subjects

were chosen from five sections of Psychology 200. The sections ranged from spring of

1995 to the spring of 1997. To protect the validity of the study, the subjects were

unaware of their participation, and did not know that their test scores would be studied.

Insuring the privacy of the participants, in no time were the subjects’ test scores congruent

with the subjects name.

The only materials needed for this study were the first test score and the final average of

that person’s overall grade. All one hundred seventy-six scores were comprised of five

sections of Psychology 200.

After collecting data from all five semesters of the Psy 200 classes, I entered it in to SPSS. I arranged the data by dividing it in to two seperate groups (first test, and final score). I then ran a one-way ANOVA to calculate and compare means. After concluding that there was a significant difference in the ANOVA, I ran a Tukeys HSD to find which group was different.


To calculate the means of the study, I used SPSS to run a standard one-way ANOVA.

The results of the one-way ANOVA were significant, F(3,172) = 3.693, p < .01.

Although the ANOVA showed a significant value for the 176 subjects, I wasn’t for sure

which of the four groups were different from each other.

To determine the significance of each group I ran a Post Hoc Tukey HSD. The values of

the Tukey HSD for each group, with a .05 significance level, were only different for the

forth and final group (low group). This group was significantly different to all of the

previous three groups.

The four groups also showed a visible difference in the calculated mean score.

Comparing the four groups’ mean score, the high, above average, and the below average

all showed a decrease in the calculated mean score. The lowest group was the only group

to show an improvement in overall test scores.


The present data are congruent with the anchoring theory. As I hypothesized, the lower group did show a significant change to the anchoring of the first test, unlike the higher three groups. Although the highest three groups did exit the course with a higher overall grade, all three of these groups actually decreased in calculated mean score.

One one of the problems that I was aware that I might have in this study was the regression towards the mean theory. Since the study was arranged in a fashion of comparing means of a pretest and posttest fashion, a regression toward the mean was allmost inevitable.

The average mean of the first exam was 79.61. An equal amount of groups were both higher and lower than that of the average mean. After the comparison of the first exam to the final score in the class, the third group (below average) also decreased it`s mean value. In conclusion, I strongly believe that anchoring is present in one`s ablility to perceive a solution to a problem.


Chapman, G. B., & Bronstein, B. H. (1996). The more you ask for, the more you get:

Anchoring in personal injury verdicts. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 6, 519-540.

Cowart, W. (1994). Anchoring and grammar effects in judgments of sentence

acceptability. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 3, pt. 1, 1171-1181.

Jacowitz, K., & Kahneman, D. (1995). Measures of anchoring in estimation tasks.

Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 11, 1161-1166.

Mori, S., & Ward, L. (1995). Pure feedback effects in absolute identification. Perception

and Psychophysics. 7,1065-1079.

Mumma, G. H., & Wilson, S. B. (1995). Procedural debasing of primacy/anchoring

effects in clinical-like judgments. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 6,841-853.

Ritov, I. (1996). Anchoring in simulated competitive market negotiation. Organizational

Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 1, 16-25.

Rutledge, R. W. (1993). The effects of group decisions and group-shifts on use of the

anchoring and adjustment heuristic. Social Behavior and Personality. 3, 215-226.

Sawyer, T. F., & Wesenten, N. J. (1994). Anchoring effects on judgment, estimation,

and discrimination of numerosity. Perceptual and Motor Skills. 1, 91-98.

Switzer, F. S., & Sniezek, J. A. (1991). Judgment processes in motivation: Anchoring

and adjustment effects on judgment and behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human

Decision Processes. 2, 208-229.

Whyte, G., & Sebenius, J. K. (1997). The effect of multiple anchors on anchoring in

individual and group judgment. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

69, 75-85.

Wilson, T. D., Houston, C. E., & Etling, K. M. (1996). A new look at anchoring effects:

Basic anchoring and its antecedents. Journal of Experimental Psychology General. 4,


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Last Edited 9/14/2008 5:22:36 PM
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