05 Jul 2006  Working Papers

Effects of Task Difficulty on Use of Advice

Executive Summary — We make most of our choices by weighing other people's advice counter to our own opinions. People generally underweight advice from others, though the practice is not universal. In two studies, it is determined that people overweight advice on difficult tasks but underweight it on the easy ones. Key concepts include:

  • Understand built-in biases when weighing advice, especially on difficult tasks. Don't automatically give more credence to the opinions of advisers or consultants over your own experience.

 

Author Abstract

Although prior studies have found that people generally underweight advice from others, such discounting of advice is not universal. Two studies examined the impact of task difficulty on the use of advice. In both studies, the strategy participants used to weigh advice varied with task difficulty even when it should have not. In particular, the results show that people overweight advice on difficult tasks and underweight advice on easy tasks. This pattern held regardless of whether advice was automatically provided or whether people had to seek it out. The paper discusses implications for the circumstances under which people will be open to influence by advisors.

Paper Information

This research is forthcoming in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.