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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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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
NYU
United States

 


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