Conflicted Advice and Second Opinions: Benefits, but Unintended Consequences

Posted: 24 Oct 2015 Last revised: 4 Dec 2016

See all articles by Sunita Sah

Sunita Sah

Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University

George Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Date Written: February 9, 2014

Abstract

Second opinions have been advocated as an antidote to bias in advice when primary advisors have conflicts of interest. In four experiments, we demonstrate how primary advisors alter their advice due to knowledge of the presence of a second advisor. We show that advisors give more biased advice and adopt a profit-maximizing frame when they are aware of the mere availability of a second opinion. The bias increases when primary advisors are aware that the second opinion is of low quality, and decreases when they know the second opinion is of high quality and easy to access. Both economic concerns (e.g., losing future business) and noneconomic concerns (e.g., concern that a second advisor will expose the poor quality advice) decrease bias in primary advisors’ advice. Based on these findings, we discuss circumstances in which second opinions are likely to be beneficial or detrimental to advice-recipients.

Keywords: advice, bias, conflicts of interest, second opinions, judgment, ethical decision making, rationalizations, advisors, influence, behavioral economics, behavioral ethics, morality, ethics, moral disengagement

Suggested Citation

Sah, Sunita and Loewenstein, George F., Conflicted Advice and Second Opinions: Benefits, but Unintended Consequences (February 9, 2014). Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (Forthcoming); Edmond J. Safra Working Paper No. 13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2274251 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2274251

Sunita Sah (Contact Author)

Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

George F. Loewenstein

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
412-268-8787 (Phone)
412-268-6938 (Fax)

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