September 27, 2018

1:00-2:00 p.m.

Please note: This event is for invited researchers only.

The Economic and Interpersonal Consequences of Deflecting Direct Questions

Talk description:
Direct, difficult questions (e.g., Do you have other offers? When do you plan on having children?) pose a challenge. Respondents may incur economic costs for honestly revealing information, reputational costs for engaging in deception, and interpersonal costs, including harm to perceptions of trust and liking, for directly declining to answer the question (e.g., I would rather not answer that question).

Across eight experiments, we explore the relative economic and interpersonal consequences of a fourth approach: Deflection, answering a direct question with another question. We contrast deflection with other types of responses and show that deflection can mitigate the economic costs of honest answers, the reputational costs of engaging in deception, and the interpersonal costs of directly declining to answer a question. For disclosures central to trust (e.g., Why did you leave your last position after one month?), we show that deflection can lead to better economic and interpersonal outcomes than honest disclosure. Paradoxically, deflection works by requiring the initial question asker to answer a direct question, creating the same challenge for the asker that the respondent initially faced.


Brad Bitterly, PostDoc/LEO
Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

Brad Bitterly started a post-doctorate this fall with the M&O department at Ross and his research focuses on the psychology of conversation. He studies the benefits and risks of various forms of communication (e.g., humor, self-disclosure) and how they influence variables such as status, negotiation outcomes, and trust. He is broadly interested in how what we say shapes interpersonal perception and behavior.

Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.

Learn more about the Adderley Positive Research Incubator here and direct questions about individual sessions to Amy Young at