Sentences to ponder

by on October 23, 2009 at 12:32 pm in Education | Permalink

Experts are more
persuasive when they seem tentative about their conclusions, a study
soon to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research suggests. But
the opposite is true of novices, who grow more persuasive with
increasing certainty.  In one experiment, college students were
randomly assigned one of four variations of a restaurant review,
praising a local Italian spot. In some versions, the reviewer was
described as a famous food critic; in others, he was a technology
worker at a local college with a penchant for fast food. Each of the
critics expressed positive certainty about the restaurant's virtues in
one variation, and tentative praise in another. Asked to evaluate the
restaurant, the students who read the expert's review liked it much
better when he seemed tentative; the opposite was true of the novice…

The story is here.  Of course I'm not sure you should ponder these sentences.  Maybe you should, maybe you shouldn't.  If that.

I thank John De Palma for the pointer.

JSK October 23, 2009 at 12:36 pm

So I guess Tyler is the expert and Alex the novice. :-)

Paul October 23, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Tyler, are you claiming you are an expert in pondering?

I think this is a good example about people’s view of extremes. The expert’ tentative positiveness and the novice’s certainty probably fall somewhere in the same area. Postive but not extreme postiveness. (Hopefully that makes sense)

Joshua October 23, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Makes sense to me. Tentativeness signals different things depending on how expert you are. An expert is tentative because he’s thought deeply about it and is aware of all the caveats and ceteris not being paribus; an expert who’s being certain may have fallen into dogmatism. Contrariwise, a novice who is tentative probably hasn’t given it enough thought; there the hesitation stems from knowing that they haven’t worked hard enough at nailing down the answer.

libert October 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

tgrass: “is a professor more or less likely to give an A to a student who reasonably hedges?”

The answer, without question, is definitely “more likely.”

Chris Dornan October 23, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Mr. Rushworth was an inferior young man, as ignorant in business as in books, with opinions in general unfixed, and without seeming much aware of it himself. — Mansfield Park

I am with Joshua. Lack of clarity in a novice indicates ignorance but we want nuance from experts.

josh October 23, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Seriously, though, nobody plays the “extremely careful scholar” card like Tyler.

Alex October 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm

I am skeptical about extrapolating from food reviews results to other, more serious matters.

Food taste is sufficiently subjective that food critic “experts” can not avoid being more like entertainers than scientists — and this is likely something that affects the results.

fusion October 23, 2009 at 3:38 pm

That is not consistent with other studies I’ve seen on the subject. Higher confidence typically will make an expert more persuasive.

The study I recall off the top of my head was in Tetlock’s Expert Political Judgment.

rob October 23, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Experts are pretentious know-it-alls. I hate it when they act like their opinion is the final word.

But why would I read the opinions of a novice, unless she really has something to say?

Jay October 23, 2009 at 11:03 pm

If you showed this to Krugman, what are the odds that he would scale back the bloviating? As a novice I place the probability at 1%.

techreseller October 29, 2009 at 10:36 am

If this is accurate, it explains our political commentators from both the right and the left. Being non-experts, they must show a complete lack of doubt about their statements, giving the audience a better feeling about what the commentators say. Remember Bush when asked in the debate against Kerry if he had made any mistakes in office? And he replied, nope cannot think of any. I was aghast at the hubris, while he got great polling results from that answer.

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