To Persuade As an Expert, Order Matters: 'Information First, then Opinion' for Effective Communication

7 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2019

See all articles by Hasan Sheikh

Hasan Sheikh

University of Toronto - Department of Family and Community Medicine

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: October 24, 2019

Abstract

As the information gap between experts and non-experts narrows, it is increasingly important that experts learn to give advice to non-experts in a way that is effective, and that respects their autonomy and agency. We surveyed 508 participants using a hypothetical medical scenario in which participants were counselled on the risks and benefits of taking antibiotics for a sore throat in circumstances in which antibiotics were inappropriate. We asked participants whether they preferred:

(1) to make their own decision based on the information or,

(2) to make their decision based on the doctor’s opinion, and then randomized participants to receive “information only”, “opinion only”, “information first, then opinion”, or “opinion first, then information.”

Participants whose stated preference was to follow the doctor’s opinion had significantly lower rates of antibiotic requests when given “information first, then opinion” compared to “opinion first, then information.” Our evidence suggests that “information first, then opinion” is the most effective approach. We hypothesize that this is because it is seen by non-experts as more trustworthy and more respectful of their autonomy.

Suggested Citation

Sheikh, Hasan and Sunstein, Cass R., To Persuade As an Expert, Order Matters: 'Information First, then Opinion' for Effective Communication (October 24, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3474998

Hasan Sheikh

University of Toronto - Department of Family and Community Medicine ( email )

500 University Avenue
5th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M5G1V7
Canada

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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