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Hasan Sheikh & Cass R. Sunstein, Respecting Autonomy:“Information First, Then Opinion” is More Effective Than “Opinion First, Then Information,” 3 J. Behavioral Econ. for Pol’y 5 (2019).

Abstract: As the information gap between experts and non-experts narrows, it is increasingly important for experts to give advice to non-experts in a way that is both effective and respectful of their autonomy. We surveyed 508 participants using a hypothetical medical scenario in which participants were counselled on the risks and benefits of taking antibiotics for a sore throat in circumstances in which antibiotics were inappropriate. We asked participants whether they preferred (1) to make their own decision based on the information or (2) to make their decision based on the doctor’s opinion, and then randomized participants to receive “information only”, “opinion only”, “information first, then opinion”, or “opinion first, then information.” Participants whose stated preference was to follow the doctor’s opinion had significantly lower rates of antibiotic requests when given “information first, then opinion” compared to “opinion first, then information.” Our evidence suggests that in some important contexts, “information first, then opinion” is the most effective approach. We hypothesize that this is because it is seen by non-experts as more trustworthy and more respectful of their autonomy. Our finding might have general implications for expert communications.