17 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2010
Date Written: October 14, 2010
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: 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