How do incentives lead to deception in advisor-client interactions? Explicit and implicit strategies of self-interested deception

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When confronted with important questions we like to rely on the advice of experts. However, uncertainty can occur regarding advisors' motivation to pursue self-interest and deceive the client. This can especially occur when the advisor has the possibility to receive an incentive by recommending a certain alternative. We investigated how the possibility to pursue self-interest led to explicit strategic behavior (bias in recommendation and transfer of information) and to implicit strategic behavior (bias in information processing: evaluation and memory). In Study 1 explicit strategic behavior could be identified: self-interested advisors recommended more often the self-serving alternative and transferred more self-interested biased information to their client compared to the advisor without specific interest. Also deception through implicit strategic behavior was identified: self-interested advisors biased the evaluation of information less in favor of the client compared to the control group. Self-interested advisors also remembered conflicting information regarding their self-interest worse compared to advisors without self-interest. In Study 2 beside self-interest we assessed accountability which interacted with self-interest and increased the bias: when accountability was high advisor's self-interest led to higher explicit strategic behavior (less transfer of conflicting information), and to higher implicit strategic behavior (devaluated and remembered less conflicting information). Both studies identified implicit strategic behavior as mediator which can explain the relation between self-interest and explicit strategic behavior. Results of both studies suggest that self-interested advisors use explicit and implicit strategic behavior to receive an incentive. Thus, advisors do not only consciously inform their clients "self-interested," but they are influenced unconsciously by biased information processing - a tendency which even increased with high accountability.




Mackinger, B., & Jonas, E. (2012). How do incentives lead to deception in advisor-client interactions? Explicit and implicit strategies of self-interested deception. Frontiers in Psychology, 3(DEC).

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