Whether it is redhead hypnotherapists, white-teethed health gurus, or sharp-suited consultants, there does seems to be an abundance of people who charge a big chunk of other people’s money for the benefit of their advice and wisdom, doesn’t there?

Regardless of the quality of this advice, one thing is for sure: The fact that someone has paid for it, means it is more likely to be heeded. That is according to Francesca Gino at Carnegie Mellon University, whose new study shows that we’re more likely to use advice we’ve paid for than advice that’s free, even if there’s no difference in quality between the two sources. Interesting, eh?

So, this is the hypnotic affect that we believe if we have paid and invested, we attach that value to that thing… I know I never would offer therapy for free because I tend to feel that it is not valued by the individual and I am often reluctant if the individual having herapy is being paid for by someone else… I can breathe a sigh of relief for verging on being such a b”bread-head” now that this piece of research is available. 🙂

In this piece of research, dozens of students were asked questions about American history and received small cash prizes for correct answers. The students were either given the option of receiving advice on the correct answers, or advice was imposed on them. Sometimes this advice was free; other times it was paid for out of the students’ winnings. Crucially, the advice always came from the same source — in the form of the answer that a student from a pilot session had given to the same question — so the quality of advice was held constant regardless of whether it was free or paid for.

Throughout the study, the participants took more account of advice they had paid for than advice they were given free, even though it was made clear to them that the advice was of the same quality. A final study showed the students took even more account of advice if it was made more expensive.

Gino said her findings could be explained by a phenomenon in decision-making theory known as the sunk cost fallacy. Maybe this is our desire to justify our past investments through our present and future behaviour — maybe it is why that very expensive Prada shirt that I never wear is still cluttering up my wardrobe! In the case of advice, it seems we feel compelled to use guidance we’ve paid for, so as to justify the expense. And perhaps it explains why expensive frauds can sometimes be so influential.

Certainly, I have found that in therapy, when people invest in themeselves and pay in advance of the sessions, they certainly put more effort into the process and as a result, they benefit much more from it. In my opinion then, it is money, value and energy well spent!  

So anyway, I am off to hike up my consultancy fees yet again… 😉