In Praise of Vagueness: Malleability of Vague Information as a Performance-Booster

17 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2010  

Himanshu Mishra

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business

Arul Mishra

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business

Baba Shiv

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Date Written: October 14, 2010

Abstract

Is the eternal quest for precise information always worthwhile? This research suggests that at times vagueness has its merits. Previous research has demonstrated that people choose precise (over vague) information because it gives them a sense of security and makes their environments more predictable. However, we show that the fuzzy boundaries afforded by vague information (e.g., a range) can actually help individuals perform better compared to information provided in a precise form. We document these findings across two laboratory experiments and one quasi-field study using different performance-related contexts including mental acuity, physical strength, and weight loss. We argue that vague information by its malleable nature can be interpreted in a manner that one desires. This malleability allows people to generate positive response expectancies, and, thereby, perform better. Precise information by its rigid nature discourages desired interpretations. Hence, it is not as helpful at boosting performance.

Keywords: vague, ambiguity, motivated reasoning, optimism, expectancies, weight loss, performance

JEL Classification: C91, M30, M31, M39

Suggested Citation

Mishra, Himanshu and Mishra, Arul and Shiv, Baba, In Praise of Vagueness: Malleability of Vague Information as a Performance-Booster (October 14, 2010). Psychological Science, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1725663

Himanshu Mishra (Contact Author)

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business ( email )

1645 E. Campus Center Drive
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9304
United States

HOME PAGE: http://himanshumishra.com

Arul Mishra

University of Utah - David Eccles School of Business ( email )

1645 E. Campus Center
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

Baba Shiv

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-725-8122 (Phone)

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