Sunday, July 5, 2009

Know Your Biases: Anchoring

From Wikipedia's article: 'Anchoring or focalism is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily, or "anchor," on one trait or piece of information when making decisions.'

This one's dogged me all my life. Back when I was five, a school psychologist noted that I was "ready to give up after a few seconds of trying unsuccessfully." When I learned to persist, I found that I was slow to shift gears if I didn't size things up right at first glance. I still have that trouble now, especially in tasks that require practical thinking.

The likesake of me is effectively obliged to cope with that innate tendency. The best way, I aver, is to latch on to a principle that's tried and true and make it the anchor. "Buying a dollar for fifty cents" is one such principle. It's hard work finding out if the supposed dollar really is one, but the principle itself need not be altered. I suspect that the greatest value investors use anchoring in a positive way, and the way to become a better investor is to do so yourself.

To put it succinctly: if you exclaim "Where has this been all my life?", that's your anchor. Let your anchoring bias work for you. I tried to fight it earlier in life, as the above assessment rankled, but my pride in the matter may very well have cost me some.

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