Persistent Bias in Advice-Giving
Zhuoqiong Chen, Tobias Gesche
We show that a one-off incentive to bias advice can have persistent effects. In an experiment, advisers were paid a bonus to recommend to a less-informed client a risky option, relative to its alternatives, which is only attractive to risk-seeking individuals. Afterwards, the advisers learned that they had to choose for themselves and make a second recommendation from the same set of options, this time without the bonus. We find that the bonus biases not only the initial recommendations but also subsequent actions. The advisers who were offered the bonus only for their first recommendation chose the risky option and recommended it a second time up to six times more often than did the advisers in a control group who were never offered a bonus. In an additional treatment, the advisers were informed about this sequence of actions and the one-off nature of the bonus before they made any decisions. Enabling advisers to anticipate the entire sequence of actions does not decrease the bias in the initial recommendation. However, it is effective in eliminating the bonus' persistent effect on the advisers' subsequent own choices and second recommendations. We also present a theory, based on the advisers' (self-) image concerns over appearing biased, which can explain our results.
Advice-giving, Conflict of interest, Self-signaling