Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


CMU researchers find amplification of bias in advice to the unidentified and many

Professionals often give advice to many anonymous people. For example, financial analysts give public recommendations to buy, hold or sell stock, and medical experts formulate clinical guidelines that affect many patients.

New research from Carnegie Mellon University's George Loewenstein and Duke University's Sunita Sah demonstrates that advisers confronting a conflict of interest give more biased advice when there are multiple advice recipients as opposed to just one recipient, and in the case of just one recipient the advice is more biased when the adviser does not know the name of the recipient.

The findings, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, also show that an increased intensity of feelings toward single, identified recipients appears to drive the bias; advisers experience more empathy, and appear to have greater awareness and motivation to reduce bias in their advice, when the recipient is single and identified.

"Logically people should be more concerned about the advice they give to multiple recipients than to single recipients since it will affect the welfare of more people," noted Sah, a post-doctoral associate at Duke's Fuqua School of Business who worked on this research while completing her Ph.D. at CMU's Tepper School of Business. "But, people feel more empathetic toward a single, identified, advice recipient, so they tend to put more care into the advice and behave less selfishly than they do if there are many recipients."

Loewenstein, the Herbert A. Simon University Professor of Economics and Psychology within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, added, "It is a perfect example of how emotional reactions to situations can often drive us to do exactly the opposite of what logic would prescribe."

Sah and Loewenstein conducted two experiments in which subjects, acting as advisers, gave advice to other subjects — "estimators." Those playing the role of advisers viewed a 30 x 30 grid of dots, some filled and some clear, and gave advice to the estimator or estimators on the number of filled dots. Estimators had to estimate the number of filled dots in the large grid, but only viewed a 3 x 3 subset of the grid. The researchers created a "conflict of interest" between the two parties by paying the estimators more if their estimates were accurate but paying advisers more based on how much the estimators overestimated the number of filled dots.

In the first experiment, advisers were told the name and age of the single estimator for the "identified" condition, whereas no such information was provided for the "unidentified" condition, and the adviser only knew the estimator as "the estimator." Advisers gave more inflated advice when they were not given the identifying information about the estimators, a result that is consistent with prior research showing that identification leads to greater sympathy toward a potential victim.

The second experiment repeated the identification manipulation of the first, and also compared advisers who gave advice to a single advice recipient (identified or not identified) or to a group of advice recipients (also identified or not identified). They replicated the results from the first experiment, and also found that advisers gave more biased advice to groups than to individuals, even though in the former case more people would be adversely affected by the biased advice.

This study is one of many collaborations between Loewenstein and Sah, including a 2010 paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that helps to explain how physicians rationalize accepting industry gifts.

Jocelyn Duffy | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>