ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (8): 848-857.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00848

• Special Column: Behavioral decision-making is nudging China toward the overall revitalization • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Anchoring effect as a nudge on improving public health: Two field experiments

WANG Xiaozhuang1(),AN Xiaojing2,LUO Haoshuang3,XU Sheng1,YU Xin4,HU Shiya1,WANG Yuhan 1   

  1. 1 Academy of Psychology and Behavior, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300074, China
    2 Department of Education Science, Xingtai College, Xingtai 054001, China
    3 Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    4 Mental Health Education Center, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin 300384, China
  • Received:2017-12-25 Published:2018-08-25 Online:2018-07-02
  • Supported by:


Anchoring effect refers to the phenomenon that a target estimation was influenced by the numerical anchor value in the way that the final judgment would be close to the anchor value. Previous studies have found that external anchor could improve ones' attitudes and behaviors that may promote their physical and mental health. However, studies about other anchor types were not being found in the literature.

Anchor values ??that are highly personally relevant can stimulate deep processing. The current study integrated anchor value with prevention science, conducted two on-site experiments that focused on the physical and mental health of older adults and adolescents, and explored design options of internal anchors and fine anchors and their effectiveness in improving outcomes.

Experiment 1 examined the effect of positive nostalgia on the emotional state and well-being of older adults. A two-factor mixed design was adopted. A positive nostalgic internal anchor (the number of positive reminiscences) was built through 10-week nostalgic story sharing. 80 senior citizens participated in 10 weeks’ interventions of compelling narrative life sharing (positive nostalgia condition) and collecting life stories (free nostalgia condition). The subjects shared two stories per week about different topics. The first experiment tested whether the positive nostalgia of internal anchors had any effect on positive emotions and happiness. The results showed that, the number of pleasant and inspirational stories (positive internal anchor) in positive nostalgia group was significantly higher than those in the free nostalgia group. The positive mood and well-being of the positive nostalgia group (intervention group) were significantly higher than those of the free nostalgia group (control).

Experiment 2 examined the influence of fine anchor on persistence of physical activity among middle school students. There were three study conditions: fine anchors, rough interval anchors and no anchors. According to their base line performance in plank and 2 minutes rope skipping, 180 adolescents were divided into 3 groups Individualized “motivation tips” were delivered before the second experiment. It was found that the self-reported persistence levels and improvement rates were higher among students in the fine anchor group than those of the other two groups. Results of comprehensive analysis showed that the designed internal anchors and fine anchors played an active role in promoting physical and mental health among older adults and adolescents.

The study provided evidence that self-generating internal anchor or fine anchor for individual promotes positive attitudes and behaviors on physical and mental health. A possible mechanism of the effect could be that the anchor values were personally relevant and could stimulate deep processing, which in turn triggered changes in feelings, emotions, or motives. Results of the study have implications on practical significance for improving the physical and mental health of older adults and adolescents and for increasing ways and methods to improve their health.

Key words: anchoring effect, internal anchor, fine anchor, nudge

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