The coordination of problem solving strategies: When low competence sources exert more influence on task processing than high competence sources


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Alain Quiamzade, FPSE, University of Geneva, Genève 4, 1211, Switzerland (e-mail:


Previous research has shown that low competence sources, compared to highly competent sources, can exert influence in aptitudes tasks in as much as they induce people to focus on the task and to solve it more deeply. Two experiments aimed at testing the coordination between self and source's problem solving strategies as a main explanation of such a difference in influence. The influence of a low versus high competence source has been examined in an anagram task that allows for distinguishing between three response strategies, including one that corresponds to the coordination between the source's strategy and participants' own strategy. In Study 1 the strategy suggested by the source was either relevant and useful or irrelevant and useless for solving the task. Results indicated that participants used the coordination strategy in a larger extend when they had been confronted to a low competence rather than a highly competent source but only when the source displayed a strategy that was useful to solve the task. In Study 2 the source's strategy was always relevant and useful, but a decentring procedure was introduced for half of the participants. This procedure induced participants to consider other points of view than their own. Results replicated the difference observed in Study 1 when no decentring was introduced. The difference however disappeared when decentring was induced, because of an increase of the high competence source's influence. These results highlight coordination of strategies as one mechanism underlying influence from low competence sources.