Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Advice at home and at work How advisor features and problem context affect advice outcomes

Student Researcher(s)

Loren Bailey (Ph.D Candidate); Kellie St.Cyr Brisini (Ph.D Candidate); Kaytiann Severen (Ph.D Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar


Advice is an important and ubiquitous form of social support and social influence at work and at home. However, very little research to date has examined advice giving at the intersection of these two important aspects of adult life. Advice response theory holds that the message features influence advice outcomes positively, as do individual characteristics of the advisor, such expertise, trustworthiness and closeness to the recipient. Additionally, the theory suggests that the influence of message features and advisor characteristics are moderated by situational factors (Feng and MacGeorge 2010; MacGeorge, Guntzviller, Hanasano, and Feng, 2014). The current study was designed to examine the relationship between the advisor characteristics and the situational factors by comparing perceptions of advice in response to problems in the context of family and work.


For married, employed adults, controlling for age and scenario realism, what is the relationship between problem context (RQ1), advice source (RQ2), explicit expertise claims (RQ3) and advice outcomes?


Following previous advice research, this study uses hypothetical response scenarios to test a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial design. First, married, working adults (n = 370) read one of two scenarios in which they experienced a problem either at home or at work. These work and family scenarios contained parallel problems, in which the scenarios used the exact same wording, with just the key nouns changed to match the work or family context (e.g. “Two of your co-workers are fighting,” versus “Two of your family members are fighting”). The scenarios were pilot tested to ensure high levels of realism, high problem severity, and gender neutrality. Next, they received a piece of advice, which they were asked to imagine was given by either their spouse or a close co-worker. The advice messages were the same across all scenarios and were formatted using previous advice research to uniformly demonstrate qualities of efficacy, feasibility, and absence of limitations. Half of the advice contained an expertise claim in which the advisor expressed having experience with that particular problem. After reading the scenarios and advice claims, the participants evaluated the advice for quality (e.g. helpfulness, supportiveness, appropriateness) and responded to measures concerning their intention to implement the advice, the sufficiency of the support received, and the coping assistance gained.


Advice received from a spouse was evaluated more positively across the work and family problem contexts. In particular, the advice was seen as more supportive and better quality. Advice recipients were also more likely to implement advice from a spouse than advice from a co-worker. Although there were no main effects for expertise claims or the problem context, expertise claims given in the work context improved evaluations of advice quality. This effect did not hold for problems in the family context. Additionally, for work problems, advice from a spouse was seen as more supportive when it contained an explicit statement of experience with the problem.


Advice response theory alludes to the importance of advisor relationship and problem type, but has yet to test this empirically. This study is the first step to including relationship type and problem type in advice response theory. Overall, these findings [suggest] that romantic partners, through advice, have a strong influence over people’s reactions to problems; moreover, that the context of the problem may shape how message features, such as expertise claims, influence how successfully advice is received.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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