NYU Stern
Share / Print
Press Releases

New NYU Stern Study Explains Why People in Power Don’t Take Advice

see press release article photo

The decisions made by powerful individuals in business, government and other important organizations arguably have some of the most serious and broad-reaching consequences for society-at-large.

NEW YORK--Incorporating advice from others can improve decision making, yet all too often, powerful people ignore it, according to new research from NYU Stern Management Professors Kelly E. See and Elizabeth W. Morrison, along with co-authors Naomi B. Rothman of Lehigh University and Jack B. Soll of Duke University.

The researchers studied survey data gathered from hundreds of working professionals and their co-workers across a range of organizations and industries, as well as evidence from controlled laboratory experiments where people were presented with advice from others. The pattern of results was very consistent.

Key research findings include:

  • Greater power reduces the tendency to take advice
  • Individuals in power have elevated confidence in their own initial judgments; this is the key reason why even good advice is discounted
  • As a result, powerful decision makers are less accurate in their final judgments than they would be if they had taken more of the advice presented to them

“The decisions made by powerful individuals in business, government and other important organizations arguably have some of the most serious and broad-reaching consequences for society-at-large. And yet the very power entrusted to those individuals may induce a mindset that prevents them from taking advice, and thus from making sound decisions,” warns Professor See.

The co-authored paper, “The Detrimental Effects of Power on Confidence, Advice Taking and Accuracy,” is forthcoming in the November 2011 issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

To speak with Professor Kelly See, please contact her directly at 212-998-0245, ksee@stern.nyu.edu; or contact Carolyn Ritter in NYU Stern’s Office of Public Affairs, 212-998-0624, critter@stern.nyu.edu.