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Source: Harvard Business Review
Published: October 2001

Authority bias (Behavioral Economics)

Circulated: December 9, 2020

What is it?

Authority bias describes people’s tendency to defer to experts; we tend to give more weight to the opinions of authority figures like doctors, professors, or politicians.

What are examples?

  • Physical therapists increased patient compliance by 34% using simple measures like displaying their awards, diplomas, and certifications in their offices.
  • A sales representative can list certifications they’ve earned in their email signature to persuade customers they’re an expert in their field.

How can we make better decisions?

If you want to be persuasive, clearly display your expertise and certifications; don’t be shy, and don’t assume it’s self-evident.

When you’re being persuaded by a notable figure, make sure the source of their authority is relevant; a medical doctor should tell you about health, not the stock market.

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