Advice vs. Choice

According to research from Yale University, published in Current Opinion in Psychology, advisers often advise others to act with greater caution than they would choose for themselves. A few of the study’s observations:

1. Biases such as loss aversion and status quo bias are exacerbated by accountability and a desire to maintain a good adviser/advisee relationship;

2. Undue caution in advising others is exercised because people are generally blamed more for losses than they are credited for gains. Moreover, the capacity for symhedonia (positive emotion associated with observing others’ success) is limited particularly when compared to sympathy for others’ losses;

3. High-quality, unbiased advice is discounted if it appears to align with the adviser’s self-interest (i.e. pecuniary benefit) which can lead the adviser to engage in “strategic exaggeration” to compensate, at times beyond what is necessary, to countervail any discounting by the advisee. Furthermore, advisers who disclose pecuniary conflict may then consider it morally acceptable to give biased advice on the basis that the advisee has been “warned.”

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