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Demonstrability, difficulty and persuasion: An experimental study of advice taking

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


Robert Hoffmann

Professor of Computational Social Science

Swee Hoon Chuah

Florian Kock


© 2019 Elsevier B.V. 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.


Chuah, S., Hoffmann, R., Chesney, T., Chuah, S. H., Kock, F., & Larner, J. (2020). Demonstrability, difficulty and persuasion: An experimental study of advice taking. Journal of Economic Psychology, 76, 1-13.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 16, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 26, 2019
Publication Date 2020-01
Deposit Date Dec 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 27, 2021
Journal Journal of Economic Psychology
Print ISSN 0167-4870
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 76
Article Number 102215
Pages 1-13
Keywords Applied Psychology; Economics and Econometrics; Sociology and Political Science
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Demonstrability, difficulty and persuasion: An experimental study of advice taking; Journal Title: Journal of Economic Psychology; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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