Anchoring in Deliberations
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Deliberation is a standard procedure for making decisions in not too large groups. It has the advantage that group members can learn from each other and that, at the end, often a consensus emerges that everybody endorses. Unfortunately, however, implementing a deliberation procedure also has a number of disadvantages due to the cognitive limitations of the individual group members. What is more, the very process of deliberation introduces an additional bias, which we investigate in this article. We demonstrate that even in a group of (boundedly) rational agents the resulting consensus (if there is one) depends on the order in which the group members speak. More specifically, the group member who speaks first has an unproportionally high impact on the final decision, which we interpret as a new instance of the well-known anchoring effect. To show this, we construct and analyze an agent-based model—inspired by the disagreement debate in social epistemology—and obtain analytical results for homogeneous groups (i.e., for groups whose members consider each other as epistemic peers) as well as simulation results for inhomogeneous groups.
Thanks to Mark Colyvan, Klaus Fiedler, Ulrike Hahn, Martin Kocher, Jan Sprenger and Anja Tuschke for helpful discussions and to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for financial support. We are particularly grateful for the excellent feedback of a referee which led to a new framing of this paper. Finally, S.H. would like to thank LMU Munich’s Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) for support through the Senior Researcher in Residence program in the academic year 2016/17.
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