Now I find this really strange. If someone gives you a completely crazy example answer to a question, then asks you the question, your answer is influenced by the crazy answer they first gave you. Even obviously random “information” interfers with our reasoning. Participants who span a roulette wheel before answering questions about how many African nations there were in the UN, gave lower answers if they span a low number before answering.
This makes me think of two aspects of task estimation in project life but, as an aside, it also shows how information can be completely useless but is, nonetheless, data.
So, to the subject of task or cost estimation. You are in a meeting at the start of a piece of work or project and someone asks you “Roughly how long will it take?”. They may even say “we won’t hold you to it”. The anchoring and adjustment heuristic shows us that they will be influenced by what you say, even if you say “Well, it is not 3 weeks”. My experience is, don’t be tempted to guess a number off the top of your head. According to Kahneman and Tversky, we “use” all “information” we receive on a topic and that ties up with my experience. If you must give a number before you have a chance to plan or estimate, be sure to also give a % confidence (which would be very low).
The other thing that came to mind was planning poker in AGILE project management. I always get push back from project teams when I suggest team members think of their estimates and then all write them down before revealing them and discussing them. “We don’t need all that fuss”, they say. Of course, there may be several aspects of psychology effecting group estimation. Nudge Theory and conformity in general come to mind but it struck me that anchoring and adjustment was relevant here too. Also, I wonder if those with low confidence in their ability to estimate tasks would be especially vulnerable to anchoring and adjustment.