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Title:Sources and Representations of Uncertainty and Preferences for Reward Contingencies
Author(s):Spurlock, David Glenn
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Sniezek, Janet A.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Psychology, Social
Abstract:Two experiments were performed to investigate hypotheses concerning the effects of vague versus precise representation of uncertainties, the sources of those uncertainties (environmental or personal performance), and the types of uncertainties (internal versus external created through the timing of the determination of the outcomes). The experiments were conducted with undergraduate psychology student volunteers (n = 150 for Experiment 17 and n = 65 for Experiment 2) who participated in exchange for partial fulfillment of course requirements. The tasks involved subjects making choices with respect to contingencies associated with their correct answers to multiple choice questions or the outcomes of draws of playing cards over which they had no control. Subjects made the choices under combinations of information (advice) conditions. The results indicated that, first, subjects behaved as if they sought to reduce their absolute level of internal uncertainty as much as possible while simultaneously attempting to maintain a self-serving (i.e., optimistic) bias. Second, subjects seemed to prefer that the performance contingency (question) determinant be selected prior to their choice of contingency for a particular trial. Third, subjects exhibited a general, albeit small, preference for vagueness in this task that could be due to the use of a gain frame in the task presentation. Fourth, subjects acted as if they were willing to tolerate larger than minimal amounts of relative internal uncertainty in exchange for reduction in absolute internal uncertainty (as demonstrated by their general preference for preselection over postselection of the determining items in each trial). Fifth, there was no overall tendency to prefer one type of contingency (performance or environmental) over the other. The findings of Experiment 2 indicated a slight preference for advice that reduced uncertainty about the subject's performance over advice that reduced uncertainty about environmental contingencies although this preference did not manifest itself in the actual choice of advice. In other words, the effect on actual choice behavior, if any, was smaller than the difference in reported preferences for the advice chosen. Theoretical explanations, research implications, and possible applications of these findings are discussed.
Issue Date:1999
Description:101 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1999.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI9945005
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:1999

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