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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49748. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049748. Epub 2012 Nov 21.

How expert advice influences decision making.

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Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


People often use expert advice when making decisions in our society, but how we are influenced by this advice has yet to be understood. To address this, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we provided expert and novice advice to participants during an estimation task. Participants reported that they valued expert advice more than novice advice, and activity in the ventral striatum correlated with this valuation, even before decisions with the advice were made. When using advice, participants compared their initial opinion to their advisor's opinion. This comparison, termed the "opinion difference", influenced advice utilization and was represented in reward-sensitive brain regions. Finally, the left lateral orbitofrontal cortex integrated both the size of the opinion difference and the advisor's level of expertise, and average activity in this area correlated with mean advice utilization across participants. Taken together, these findings provide neural evidence for how advice engenders behavioral change during the decision-making process.

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