Demonstrability, Difficulty and Persuasion: An Experimental Study of Advice Taking

Robert Hoffmann, Thomas Chesney, Swee-Hoon Chuah, Florian Kock, Jeremy Larner

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Self-interested paid advisors should try to sell their solutions no matter how they came about. However, we present evidence that advisor persuasiveness depends on two dimensions of their prior problem solving: solution difficulty and demonstrability. We report a laboratory experiment with repeated advisor-client interactions where both these dimensions are independently varied. Persuasion rises in solution demonstrability and falls in difficulty. The reason is non-optimising behaviour: Advisors lacking in confidence fail to conceal difficult problem solving and those receiving their advice baulk when the proposed solution lacks objective success criteria irrespective of its promise. Our findings suggest differential prospects for persuasion and selling of different kinds of products, services and ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102215
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online 26 October 2019.


  • Persuasion
  • Advisors
  • Experiment
  • Demonstrability
  • Lying cost

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