Just as yet another new startup is launching, designed to give individuals "expert" decision making advice
, reader ChurchHatesTucker
points us to a new study that notes that people all too often stop thinking after being given "expert" advice
-- even if that advice is bad. While the folks behind the study use this as another crack to make fun of economists who believe in rational behavior, I'm not sure they're right. What's more likely is that individuals are still acting rationally. It's just that they believe that the "experts" really do have more information/knowledge/wisdom about a certain topic -- and thus they trust it over their own info. That's still quite rational. The real question should be just how often the "experts" give really bad advice. The problem with the study in question was that the expert was giving bad advice that he wouldn't normally give, making much of the actual experiment kind of meaningless. This sort of thing really is only a problem if the experts frequently give bad advice.
Still, this probably isn't too surprising. We've seen over time that people tend to rely on any sort of "expert" input, even if it's from a computer (such as driving off a cliff
thanks to GPS or believing
a financial model that suggests the likelihood of massive subprime mortgage defaults is almost non-existent). It's not so much about going against common sense. It's just that we tend to believe the "authority" over common sense, because we know
we don't have all the info that we need in many cases -- so, we assume (often reasonably) that the authority or expert is better prepared to direct us than our own common sense.