Information, Not Recommendation, the Best Advice

Attempt­ing to dis­cov­er the most effect­ive way to offer advice, research­ers iden­ti­fied four sep­ar­ate types of advice:

  • Advice for is a recom­mend­a­tion to pick a par­tic­u­lar option.
  • Advice against is a recom­mend­a­tion to avoid a par­tic­u­lar option.
  • Inform­a­tion sup­plies a piece of inform­a­tion that the decision maker might not know about.
  • Decision sup­port sug­gests how to go about mak­ing the choice, but does not make a spe­cif­ic recom­mend­a­tion.

Their study showed that inform­a­tion advice was the most valu­able to those mak­ing decisions, for a num­ber of reas­ons:

For one thing, when someone makes a recom­mend­a­tion for or against a par­tic­u­lar option, a decision maker may feel like they have lost a bit of their inde­pend­ence in mak­ing a choice. Recom­mend­a­tions about how to go about mak­ing the choice may also make a decision maker feel a loss of inde­pend­ence. When the advice comes in the form of inform­a­tion, though, the decision maker still feels like they have some autonomy.

Second, inform­a­tion helps people to make future decisions in the same domain. New pieces of inform­a­tion often make people aware of dimen­sions of a decision that they had nev­er con­sidered before. A recom­mend­a­tion for or against a par­tic­u­lar option is use­ful for the spe­cif­ic decision that you are mak­ing at a giv­en time, but that advice may not be as help­ful in the future.

Finally, get­ting inform­a­tion makes people feel more con­fid­ent in the decision they ulti­mately make. The inform­a­tion provides reas­ons for or against a par­tic­u­lar option. There is a lot of evid­ence that people feel bet­ter about decisions when they are able to give a reas­on for mak­ing the choice. Inform­a­tion provides a good jus­ti­fic­a­tion for a choice.

via Life­hack­er