Recent research has quantified the qualitative analysis given by recent champion Lani Gonzalez in a recent #JeopardyLivePanel episode.
For the uninitiated, anchoring in economics is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions. During decision making, anchoring occurs when individuals use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments.
As per the paper: This paper analyzes 12,596 wagering decisions of 6,064 contestants in the US game show Jeopardy!, focusing on the anchoring phenomenon in financial decision-making. We find that contestants anchor heavily on the initial dollar value of a clue in their wagering decision, even though there exists no rational reason to do so. More than half of all wagers occur within $500 of the initial dollar value, although the maximum possible wagering value averages $5,914. This anchoring phenomenon remains statistically significant on the one percent level, even after controlling for scores, clue category, time trends, and player-fixed effects.
In the recent #JeopardyLivePanel episode, in talking about a Daily Double bet in the October 25, 2016 game Gonzalez said, “It was an $800 clue, I’ll just bet $800, because for some reason that seemed fair if I lost. I should have just bet $5, which I thought about later.” This certainly confirms that an anchoring bias exists, and may in fact give the cognitive reason for doing so (namely, that betting the clue value “seemed fair”).
I’ll be following up on this paper in the coming weeks here on The Jeopardy! Fan, as we might have our major reason why contestants routinely bet Final Jeopardy more aggressively than Daily Doubles.