Is “Devil’s Advocate” a bad way to improve decision making?

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Antidotes to problems associated with uniformity of viewpoints have generally involved dissent in one form or another (Katzenstein, 1996), one being “devil’s advocate.” Research on authentic dissent has documented additional advantages in that it stimulates divergent and original thought (Nemeth, 1995). In this study, authentic dissent was compared with devil’s advocate and with no dissent. Findings indicate that authentic dissent was superior in (a) stimulating a greater proportion of original thoughts, (b) considering the opposite position, and (c) direct attitude change. Devil’s advocate was found to stimulate cognitive boistering of the initial position, thus raising concerns about the unintended consequences of techniques such as devil’s advocate and the subtle task facing attempts to foster original thought and yet maintain cohesion.

Source: “Improving Decision Making by Means of Dissent” from Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Volume 31, Issue 1, pages 48–58, January 2001

I found this study in Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.

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