Your brain really does switch off when given ‘expert’ advice!

Professor Berns has discovered that our brains literally can be seen ‘switching off’ when offered expert financial advice.  He monitored 24 volunteers using fMRI technology whilst asking them a  series of questions spanning the range from gambling to guaranteed payouts. 

“During some parts of the game the subjects had to make decisions on their own, while in other parts they were advised by an expert economist.

The subjects tended to take the advice, even though it was not always likely to lead to the highest possible earnings. Their brains also showed different patterns of activity when advice was available and when it was not.When participants had to make choices by themselves, they showed high activity in brain areas such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which are involved in active decision-making and probability calculation.”

It is another example of Flight / Fight behaviour.  Emory University have observed that when confronted by money related ‘stuff’, we have two main responses, boredom and fear, in other words, flight / fight!

I would imagine that this our response to expert advice which  spans a much wider area than just the financial.  If it is important and we don’t really understand it, then we are likely to turn to an expert, and we then find ourselves in this position of being apt to surrender our power to them.

Be careful who you pick.  Do remain critical.  Despite all indications to he contrary, you are the expert on your life.

.. of course, as this is ‘expert advice’ you should retain your personal right to ignore it!! 😉 

“An expert is someone who knows a lot about the past.”   Tom Hopkins

“Expert: Someone who brings confusion to simplicity”   Gregory Nunn


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5 Responses to “Your brain really does switch off when given ‘expert’ advice!”

  1. Thanks, Richard. This is really interesting.

    When we are working with clients to provide financial advice, the worst response we can receive is the constant nodding and general agreement with everything we say.

    I always prefer a client who is asking for clarification, probing the rationale behind different areas of advice and actually engaging in the advice process.

    Those that try to rattle through the discussion to get to the conclusion are typically those that we fear have failed to understand.

    Maybe we need to invest in one of those fMRI machines for our client meetings?!

  2. Martin, thanks for this insightful view. Perhaps this will make it easier for you to advise people that they do need to challenge you?

  3. Richard,

    Thank you for providing such clarity.

    We have long since been aware that the ideal scenario is when a client comes to their own conclusion after discussing various options and solutions. If a client makes an informed decision they become much more engaged in the whole process and the adviser/client relationship grows as a result.

    I note your comment to Martin. Although we encourage clients to ask questions in order to gain understanding, I prefer to concept of being “challenged”. That makes for a much more interesting meeting.

  4. Howard,
    I accept your ‘challenge’! And agree with your comments. Thank you

  5. […] off our brains and surrender our power. I found it sufficiently provoking that it triggered my blog today. We are currently in unchartered economic and political waters and we need to be careful who […]

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