Dear Abby: Should I Give Advice or Receive It?

Psychol Sci. 2018 Nov;29(11):1797-1806. doi: 10.1177/0956797618795472. Epub 2018 Oct 3.


Typically, individuals struggling with goal achievement seek advice. However, in the present investigation ( N = 2,274), struggling individuals were more motivated by giving advice than receiving it. In a randomized, controlled, double-blind field experiment, middle-school students who gave motivational advice to younger students spent more time on homework over the following month than students who received motivational advice from expert teachers (Experiment 1). This phenomenon was replicated across self-regulatory domains: Strugglers who gave advice, compared with those who received expert advice, were more motivated to save money, control their tempers, lose weight, and seek employment (Experiments 2 and 3). Nevertheless, across domains, people erroneously predicted the opposite, expecting themselves and others to be less motivated by giving advice than receiving it (Experiments 2 and 3). Why are people blind to the motivational power of giving? Giving advice motivated givers by raising their confidence-a reality that predictors fail to anticipate (Experiment 4).

Keywords: advice; giving; goal achievement; misprediction; motivation; open data; open materials; preregistered.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Schools
  • Students / psychology*
  • Young Adult