Do People Inherently Dislike Uncertain Advice?

Forthcoming, Psychological Science

17 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2017

See all articles by Celia Gaertig

Celia Gaertig

University of California, Berkeley

Joseph P. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Date Written: September 22, 2017


Research suggests that people prefer confident to uncertain advisors. But do people dislike uncertain advice itself? In eleven studies (N = 4,806), participants forecasted an uncertain event after receiving advice, and then rated the quality of the advice (Studies 1-7, S1-S2) or chose between two advisors (Studies 8-9). Replicating previous research, confident advisors were judged more favorably than advisors who were “not sure.” Importantly, however, participants were not more likely to prefer certain advice: They did not dislike advisors who expressed uncertainty by providing ranges of outcomes, numerical probabilities, or by saying that one event is “more likely” than another. Additionally, when faced with an explicit choice, participants were more likely to choose an advisor who provided uncertain advice over an advisor who provided certain advice. Our findings suggest that people do not inherently dislike uncertain advice. Advisors benefit from expressing themselves with confidence, but not from communicating false certainty.

Keywords: uncertainty, advice, overconfidence

JEL Classification: D80, M30, M31

Suggested Citation

Gaertig, Celia and Simmons, Joseph P., Do People Inherently Dislike Uncertain Advice? (September 22, 2017). Forthcoming, Psychological Science, Available at SSRN:

Celia Gaertig (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Joseph P. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3733 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6374
United States

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