Perceptions of Honesty


honestyPeople place greater trust in advisors who admit to some kind of bias in their recommendations, or that there are things they don’t know.  Apparently, the admission of imperfection makes an advisor seem more honest and reliable.  Conversely, the person who claims to know everything is less credible.

The latest evidence of this comes from a report from a medical research team at Cornell University (1).  Doctors who preface a recommendation to a patient with an admission of bias toward procedures in their own specialty are perceived to be more believable, and their recommendations are more likely to be followed, than are doctors who don’t admit to any bias.  The study director thought the admission of bias would make recommendations about surgery less effective, but the result was the opposite.

That makes sense.  The world has become too complex for any one person to know everything, and consumers are smart…

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