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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

IACM 2019 Abstract Book »

Wunderkind Wisdom: Younger Advisers Discount Their Effectiveness

Common wisdom suggests that older is wiser. As a result, younger individuals rarely give advice to older individuals, even though opportunities abound when younger individuals have valuable advice based on their relative expertise. Across four studies (N=2,059), we explore the psychology of advisers when they are younger, but have more expertise, than their advisee. Younger advisers are more prone to underestimating their actual effectiveness (Study 1-2) and impact (Study 3) relative to peer and older advisers. These effects hold when advisers give general (Study 1) and specific advice (Studies 2-3). This perception-reality gap is driven by advisers’ perceptions about their own competency in advising others and others’ receptiveness to learning from them. Finally, we demonstrate a reflection-based intervention that mitigates advisers’ misguided beliefs (Study 4). Taken together, the findings illustrate challenges individuals face when giving advice to someone older.

Ting Zhang  |
Harvard Business School
United States

Michael North  |
United States


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