The Influence of Ambiguity and Uncertainty on Wishful Thinking

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Smith, Cassandra (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Andrew Smith

Abstract: People are confronted with situations where they have to make choices and judgments every day. In making decisions, people may have a preference for one option over another, and the wishful thinking effect describes their increased optimism and inflation of the likelihood of that option happening. This phenomena has been illustrated in a variety of different contexts, including sporting events and drawing cards from a deck. Further research into the wishful thinking effect illustrates that the greatest amount of this desirability bias is exhibited in situations where the most uncertainty is present. This study expands upon previous research by including the variable of ambiguity, or “uncertainty about uncertainty”. I hypothesized that in situations that were more ambiguous, participants would display a greater amount of wishful thinking. To test this, I manipulated the uncertainty, ambiguity, and desirability of two-color square grids and asked participants to make predictions about which color they believed the computer would choose at random. Contrary to my hypothesis, I found that the greater amount of ambiguity, the less wishful thinking they exhibited, and in conditions where there was no ambiguity, participants exhibited the greatest amount of wishful thinking.

Additional Information

Smith, C (2016) "The Influence of Ambiguity and Uncertainty on Wishful Thinking" Unpublished Honors Thesis, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC
Language: English
Date: 2016

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