Anchoring in time estimation

Kevin E. Thomas*, Simon J. Handley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


In two experiments, an anchoring account of the misestimation of future task duration was tested. This account states that such misestimation occurs because previous task duration serves as an anchor for predictions, leading to underestimation when a longer task follows a shorter one and overestimation when a shorter task follows a longer one. Before estimating the duration of a focal task, participants selected a figure (anchor) of a longer or shorter duration produced by other participants in previous research on the same task (Experiment 1) or a different task (Experiment 2). In both experiments, misestimation differed according to the relative duration of the anchor to the focal task. Underestimation occurred with the shorter anchor and overestimation occurred with the longer one, suggesting that estimates were distorted in the direction of the anchors. This finding is discussed in relation to the role of prior task experience in moderating this anchoring effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-29
Number of pages6
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


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