Advisors want to provide accurate information, but also to reduce uncertainty for decision makers and help them reach a decision. One way to reduce uncertainty is to express high confidence in the advice. But inflating confidence misrepresents what the advisor really feels. What do advisors do, then, when they want to help? New research by DMEP members Uriel Haran and Simone Moran, with Asaf Mazar and Mordechai Hurwitz, finds that advisors express inflated confidence, but only in high-certainty environments, where high confidence can be helpful without increasing the risk of misleading the advisee.

In Studies 1-2, the authors elicited estimates either privately, publicly but after the recipients had already submitted their answers, or as advice. Advisors stated higher confidence than opiniongivers, but only in high-certainty estimates. Study 3 varied whether the recipient deserved help or not, by letting participants advise players of a dictator game who had either been selfish or generous. Results show that participants’ motivation to help their advisees mediated the effect of advice on their confidence.

In Study 4, experienced professionals answered a questionnaire about their motivations when giving advice at work and how they pursue these motivations. They rated the desire to help the advisee decide as highly important, and stating high confidence as a primary way to achieve this.
Study 5 replicated the effect using a work-related scenario, in which an experienced senior
manager gives advice to a junior manager either deserving or undeserving of help.

Download the paper here:

Haran, U., Mazar, A., Hurwitz, M., & Moran, S. (2022). Confidently at your service: Advisors alter
their stated confidence to be helpful. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes,
171, 104154.