Anecdotal Bias in Capital Allocation Depends on Anecdote Similarity


Previous research found that anecdotes are more persuasive than statistical data—the anecdotal bias effect. Separate research found that anecdotes that are similar to a target problem are more influential on decision-making than dissimilar anecdotes. Further, previous investigations on anecdotal bias primarily focused on medical decision-making with very little focus on business decision-making. Therefore, we investigated the effect of anecdote similarity on anecdotal bias in capital allocation decisions. Participants were asked to allocate a hypothetical budget between two business projects. One of the projects (the target project) was clearly superior in terms of the provided statistical measures, but some of the participants also saw a description of a project with a conflicting outcome (the anecdotal project). This anecdotal project was always from the same industry as the target project. The anecdote description, however, either contained substantive connections to the target or not. Further, the anecdote conflicted with the statistical measures because it was either successful (positive anecdote) or unsuccessful (negative anecdote). The results showed that participants’ decisions were influenced by anecdotes only when they believed that they were actually relevant to the target project. Further, they still incorporated the statistical measures into their decision. This was found for both positive and negative anecdotes. Further, participants were given information about the way that the anecdotes were sampled that suggested that the statistical information should have been used in all cases. Participants did not use this information in their decisions and still showed an anecdotal bias effect. Therefore, people seem to appropriately use anecdotes based on their relevance, but do not understand the implications of certain statistical concepts.

Shir Dekel
Shir Dekel

My research interests include decision-making and behavioural economics.