The famed psychologist Daniel Kahneman has garnered much praise this year for his book entitled “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” The text is essentially a summary of the man’s lifetime of work and is an ideal primer on the current state of human knowledge as it relates to human thinking and decision making. Kahneman earned his place among psychology’s giants first and foremost for his work on discovering and defining “heuristics”-systematic errors that all humans make when reaching decisions. In fact, it was his work on heuristics with Amos Tversky that led to his winning the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.
Mr. Kahneman’s work has implications in a wide range of areas, including in personal injury lawsuits (of which all birth injury cases fall). In Thinking, Kahneman discussed a concept known as “anchoring.” Anchoring is a heuristic whereby individuals are prone to be influenced by suggestions, ideas, or figures they are exposed to immediately before making a decision. That influence exists in a wide range of contexts, even when the individuals are specifically told that the exposure might influence their thinking. In this way, it is one of the most reliable and robust principles measure in experimental psychology.
Usually anchoring influence occurs when individuals need to quantify something-such as the value of damages in a birth injury lawsuit. When forced to estimate a value, an anchoring value will be influential. For example, in the most common anchoring experiment a research participant will be asked two questions in a very specific order. Those two questions might be something like this: