March 9th. 2006
Sent to but not published in the Boston Globe

It is good thing that the College Board is issuing revised scores to the students and colleges affected by their errors (Colleges scramble amid SAT glitch, Globe, March 8th, page A1). The intent is that College Admissions Officers will be able to re-evaluate the affected students and give them a better chance of admission.

There is one small psychological problem that makes an unbiased re-evaluation difficult. We all use the "anchoring heuristic." The first piece of information sets a baseline with which additional information is compared. The evidence is that when new information comes in such as new and better SAT scores, we make an insufficient adjustment; the old score drags down our new evaluation, so that in the students' cases, they will still be slightly downgraded even though the admissions officer is working with the new score.

There is a solution. Have a different admissions officer review the file, together with other new files, and make sure that only the new SAT score is included in the file.